NFA wants to import another 500,000 MT of rice to boost inventory
The National Food Authority (NFA) is planning to import another 500,000 metric tons of rice to boost its record-low inventory.
In a press conference, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino—who heads the management body of NFA—said they would ask the NFA Council in a meeting next Tuesday (July 17) to allow the importation of 500,000 MT of rice as early as possible.
If approved, this would bring the agency’s imports for 2018 to 1 million MT. It got clearance for two tranches of rice importation at 250,000 MT each tranche earlier.
The first tranche is currently being distributed to markets across the country while the second tranche is expected to arrive in August.
As more subsidized rice is distributed in the market, NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said they expected prices to finally stabilize. Rice prices have been rising for 25 weeks now, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s latest monitoring report.
The NFA Council, which is composed mainly of the country’s economic managers, will decide on the NFA’s request. It will also determine the volume, mode of procurement and schedule of arrival of the shipments.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol made it clear that no rice imports would be allowed for distribution during the harvest season, which happens in March to May and October to November.
The NFA management is targeting to have the imports arrive in the country by October, but maintained that the agency would withhold distribution to give way to local harvest.
Aquino said the call for more rice imports was in line with the agency’s basic mandate to ensure “food security stocks.”
As of Wednesday, NFA has only two and a half days’ worth of milled rice in its inventory—way below President Duterte’s latest directive to maintain a buffer of at least 60 days’ worth of consumption at any given time.
Under the law, NFA must at least maintain a 15-day buffer at any given time and a 30-day buffer during the lean months, from July to September.
But Estoperez clarified that while the government’s current inventory was low, the nationwide rice stock was enough to feed the country for 73 days.
To recall, the grains agency reported the depletion of its rice reserves in April—a first since its establishment in 1972—as it awaited the clearance for importation following its inability to procure palay locally.
Notwithstanding Piñol’s forecast that the country would register a record-high rice output this year, Aquino said the NFA’s low buying price for palay at P17 per kilogram (kg) hinders the agency from buying from local farmers.
“Unless there’s a hike in our buying price for palay, we will resort to importation,” he said.
Since last year, the NFA management has been proposing a hike of P5 in its palay buying price to the NFA Council but this has been rejected for fear that it might lead to a “relatively huge price inflation.”
For this year, Aquino is proposing an even higher buying price of P25 a kilo, an P8 increase from its current buying price. The average buying price for palay in the market is currently at P21 a kilo—the highest in nearly two years.
With the administration’s impending shift to rice tariffication which would lift the limit on import rice quotas, Aquino said that the hike was needed, more than ever, to act as safeguard for local farmers.
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