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Palace considering rise in NFA rice to compete with rice traders

By Ted Tuvera

To compete with commercial rice traders, Malacañang yesterday said it it considering an increase in the National Food Authority’s (NFA) rice purchasing power.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a press conference in Tabuk City in Kalinga province, said the government is now considering buying rice from local suppliers at a higher rate.
The NFA’s current purchasing rate is at P17 per kilo.
“There is now support for NFA to increase its price in purchasing locally produced rice,” Roque told reporters.
NFA Council chairman Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., in a press conference on Monday, said commercial traders get more supplies because they purchase the rice at a higher rate.
Evasco noted that the NFA Council’s decision to activate its standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons of rice is partly meant to replenish the food security body’s buffer stock that has been depleted good for two days.
The NFA is mandated to have at least a 15-day buffer stock and a 30-day buffer stock during the lean season, that is from July until September.
Even without the importation option that came following President Duterte’s verbal order a week back, the NFA’s buffer stock will automatically be replenished by the incoming 325,000 metric tons of rice by the end of February.
Roque, moreover, insisted that there is no rice shortage in the market.
“I know that the confirmation is there is no rice shortage. There’s already 325,000 metric tons coming in by the end of the month pursuant to the Minimum Access Volume under the [World Trade Organization],” Roque said.
“So there is no need to panic,” he added.
Rice watchdog Bantay Bigas, for its part, attacked the NFA Council’s decision to import rice, saying that it will only deeply bury the local rice industry as it favors foreign rice exporters, particularly Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China.
“If the problem is the low palay production of rice farmers, why not address the issues causing the problem? Will importation increase the country’s local produce? We would like to remind the government that prescribing the wrong medicine will not cure the disease,” said Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo.
Estavillo also debunked Evasco’s claim that “since time immemorial, the Filipino farmers have never produced rice enough to feed the Filipino people”.
Estavillo added that since the country’s membership to the WTO, the country became a net importer of agricultural products. In just five years of membership, the country registered a $670 million trade deficit.
The country continues to import rice regardless of the country’s production and NFA’s local procurement, sometimes, even going beyond the minimum access volume.

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 February 2018 20:18

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