By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The National Food Authority (NFA) is determined to buy more palay from farmers towards the end of the year even if it had already procured nearly 7 million bags of unhusked rice.
A statement showed that entering the harvest season for this year’s main crop, NFA is preparing to procure more palay from farmers nationwide and aiming to top its procurement target of 14.6 million bags for the entire 2019.
For September alone, the state-run grains agency already procured 621,430 bags of palay, mostly in Western Visayas and some areas in Luzon. This increased NFA’s total procurement starting January to 6.6 million bags.
According to NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal, the agency already started to procure high volume of palay from local farmers nationwide last month as wet season harvest started early in some areas.
“We have already reached 46 percent of our target for the year, but we are very hopeful that we can achieve 100 percent or more as the main crop traditionally yields about 70 percent of the total annual production. Historically, we buy more from farmers during the last quarter of the year, and we have increased our buying price, so our target is very attainable,” Dansal said.
NFA currently buys palay at a fixed price of P20.40 per kilogram (/kg) and P20.70 per kg for individual farmers and farmer cooperatives/organizations, respectively.
Dansal said the NFA is implementing other measures to boost the agency’s procurement operations.
“Aside from the increased buying price, we want to have more than sufficient space for the stocks we will be procuring. We are clearing our warehouses by selling our rice stocks and we are also trying to acquire additional temporary warehouse spaces through lease,” Dansal said.
The NFA is currently conducting training for additional Quality Assurance Officers or grains classifiers and Special Disbursing Officers for palay procurement. After their training, they will be deployed in NFA branches in procurement areas, as additional manpower, to cater to more farmers.
“All our preparations are meant to serve more farmers and help them earn reasonable income from their harvest. We just have to be ready, with our warehouses, personnel, facilities, and other logistics to improve our services,” Dansal said.
Meanwhile, Action for Economic Reforms (AER) urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call on both chambers of Congress to postpone their month-long recess and immediately convene for special session to act on Joint Resolutions Number 2 and 8, which are both aimed at putting in place relief measures for rice farmers beset with declining palay prices at the farm-gate.
Senate Joint Resolution No. 2 (SJR No. 2), sponsored by Senator Francis Pangilinan, authorizes the use of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), among other sources as special emergency fund to authorize direct transfers to affected rice farmers.
SJR No. 8, on the other hand, was authored by Senators Miguel Zubiri and Cynthia Villar and seeks to allow Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to convert to actual rice the rice subsidy amounting to P600 per month, which currently takes the form of financial assistance under the government’s 4Ps program.