By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Weeks before the government stripped away its regulatory functions, the National Food Authority (NFA) was able to buy 232,447 bags of unhusked rice from Filipino farmers in the first two months of 2019, its fastest level of local palay procurement it had in years.
With this volume, NFA Acting Administrator Tomas R. Escarez said the agency has already surpassed its 2018 procurement accomplishment by 2,100 percent.
For this year, NFA is targeting to buy at least 7.7 million bags of palay from local farmers during the year.
This would be the highest palay procurement the agency could achieve in five years, and the second highest since 2013 when the agency was able to procure as much as 365,582 metric tons (MT) or 7.3 million bags of palay.
From January to December 2018, NFA procured a total of 1.23 million bags of palay nationwide, which is higher than the 588,820 bags of palay it bought in 2017.
For the first two months of 2018, NFA was able to buy only 10,960 bags.
“The NFA procurement activities are obviously revitalized by the agency’s new buying price, increased from P17.70 to P20.70 per kg [kilogram] for clean and dry palay. More farmers are selling their harvest to NFA after the NFA Council approved the additional of P3.00 per kilogram Buffer Stocking Incentive (BSI) last October 2018,” Escarez said.
Based on the reports of different field offices, palay procurement were highest in the following provinces: North Cotabato – 59,734; Sultan Kudarat – 52,045; Tarlac – 14,376; Oriental Mindoro – 13,433; South Cotabato – 11,204; Isabela – 10,965; Capiz – 10,659; and Occidental Mindoro – 9,591.
“We want to recognize the continuing efforts of our officers and staff in the field. Despite the fact that it is not a peak procurement month, they were still able to serve our farmers,” Escarez said.
“In, particular, our office in Region XII covering the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and South Cotabato exceeded their target by 6,149 percent. NFA was able to procure 122,983 bags of palay from the three provinces alone,” he added.
Based on the trend in NFA’s procurement, the administrator said that palay harvests are no longer confined to the traditional summer crop from March to May and main harvest from October to December.
Escarez added that NFA must now be ready for palay procurement all year-round.
All personnel, logistics and procurement funds will be made available anywhere in the country where NFA operates, at any given time.
To recall, NFA has a budget of P7 billion to fulfill its palay procurement tasks.
Starting yesterday, NFA already stopped exercising its regulatory functions over the international and domestic trading of rice with the expected release of Rice Tariffication Law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
Aside from removing NFA’s regulatory powers over the import and export of rice, The Rice Tariffication Law also repealed the following NFA functions over the domestic rice industry: licensing and registration of persons and entities engaged in the grains business, collection of regulatory fees, issuance of negotiable warehouse receipts, warehouse inspection, authority to seize hoarded stocks, and enforce rules and regulations in the grains business, among others.
“The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law are yet to be finalized. But as spelled out in the law’s self-executing provisions, we have already instructed our field offices to cease all regulatory functions over our local grains business starting March 5,” Escarez said in a separate statement.