NFA’s newly procured post-harvest facilities defective, unusable

Published November 23, 2019, 12:00 AM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Madelaine Miraflor 

Some of the newly procured postharvest facilities of the National Food Authority (NFA) are defective and unusable, a top official revealed as the agency accepts another directive from President Duterte as part of the government’s supposed new measures to address low palay prices.

GRAINS OF LIFE – A farmer gathers palay that have dried under the sun and places them in sacks in San Rafael, Bulacan. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said the Philippines is unlikely to achieve self-sufficiency in rice because agricultural lands have been taken over by commercial interests. (Jansen Romero)
(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal said that as much as 33 of the agency’s post-harvest facilities like mechanical dryers that were given by the Department of Agriculture (DA) last year either have defects, incomplete, or can’t be connected to a power source due to incompatibility in physical interface.

And as for the trucks that are supposed to help NFA pick up farmers’ produce, they aren’t registered and therefore can’t be used outside the agency’s premises.

“Regarding the trucks, what we were told by our regional offices is that they don’t have registration papers. So they are just there. We can only use it within their office,” Dansal said.

“In terms of the drying facilities, some were delivered only in parcels, while some were delivered completely but lacks something like a generator. Some were installed but the power source won’t match,” she added.

It was in mid-September last year, in the middle of a rice crisis, when NFA was transferred to DA.

At that time, former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol ordered the establishment of more drying facilities
across the country to help farmers in their drying needs and enable them to save on post-harvest fees.

However, Dansal said that the mode of transfer of the facilities from DA’s Regional Field Offices to NFA’s Regional Field Offices were “undocumented” and were not properly communicated.

“They just put it there. We don’t know if it was given to us, lent to us, or donated to us. If it’s a donation, there should be an offer and there should be an acceptance by the receiving party,” Dansal said.

Dansal’s statement came as President Duterte ordered the NFA to increase the country’s emergency buffer stock from 15 to 30 days by buying more palay from farmers.

Further, he told Agriculture Secretary William Dar to make sure that NFA must accelerate the turnover of its inventory by buying more palay, and selling more regular milled rice at an average of 20,000 bags (50 kg) or more per day.

This is just one of the measures that the President ordered after he took back his earlier order to stop the unlimited rice importation in the country in order to address the declining price of palay.

Delivered last year, the post-harvest equipment that Dansal was talking about have been left unused and idling at NFA’s regional field offices across the country like Region 2, 6, 11, 12, and CARAGA, among others.

The problem, she said, is that these facilities are taking up so much space in NFA’s storage facilities, which could have been used solely to store locally procured palay.

“We were told to make room for more palay. But we don’t have space anymore,” Dansal said, adding that the space allotted for the mechanical dryers could be used to store as much as 5,000 bags of palay. Secretary Dar reportedly knows about this and has ordered to temporarily stop the distribution of these facilities.

Laggard

The distribution of post-harvest facilities is part of the government’s mechanization program for the rice sector, which is now being funded by the tax collected from imported rice.

The fund, collectively called as the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), is supposed to make the country’s rice farmers competitive by lowering their production cost and increasing their yield.

This should help the farmers cope with the unlimited entry of cheaper, imported rice into the country, which is allowed under the Rice Tariffication Law (RA 11203).

Nine months since the law was passed, the government has not yet distributed any RCEF-funded machinery.

An official at the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said that as of now, the procurement of the equipment that will be distributed to farmers’ cooperatives is still undergoing bidding.

In September, Dar directed PhilMech to see to it that the equipment, facilities, and machinery that the DA will give as grants must be of high-quality standards.

“We have to be stricter on the standards and quality of the equipment that we are giving,” Dar said.

He then warned the DA officials and employees that they will be dismissed if found guilty of corruption.

With a farm mechanization level of only 2.1 horsepower per hectare, the Philippines currently lags behind in productivity. This, as more than 16 percent of the farmers’ total production go to waste due to post-harvest losses.

The cost of producing rice in the Philippines currently stands at P12.72 per kilo, while it is only P6.22 per kilo in Vietnam and P8.86 per kilo in Thailand. This is why the rice that is produced here is more expensive than imported rice.

If mechanization will not happen any time soon, local rice farmers will have to keep on bearing the brunt of falling palay prices amid the surge of cheaper, imported rice into the local market.

 
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