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Supermarkets decry steep fee to sell NFA rice

A deal to have supermarkets help flood the market with affordable rice is now in limbo, after the National Food Authority (NFA) asked retailers to each pay a huge sum for a permit that was not in the original agreement.

A top official of a supermarket group said they recently learned that a retailer with a paid-up capital of P10 million has to pay P115,000 to get an NFA permit to sell rice.

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This, despite the fact it was the government who sought the help of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (Pagasa), Inc. The group had agreed to have its members sell NFA rice, based on a memorandum of agreement signed last week.

Asked what they would do if the NFA insists on this requirement, Pagasa president Steven Cua said: “There’s nothing we can do about it. There’s nothing [the Department of Trade and Industry] can do about it. It’s [all about] what NFA can do right now.”

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“It’s not just difficult, it’s impossible actually to want to help out,” Cua told reporters on Thursday.

The group has 200 stores across the country, catering to the B, C and D markets. The move would have given the affected poor better access to the staple.

The NFA wrote the draft of the agreement, which the DTI later reviewed, according to Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo. She said requiring Pagasa to get a permit from the NFA was not part of the deal.

“There was no mention of accreditation or licensing in the MOA,” she told reporters.

The DTI urged the NFA to “limit its requirements,” but Castelo stopped short of saying Pagasa should not pay for the permit to sell the NFA rice.

The setback came despite a recent order from Malacañang to reduce the gap between farm gate prices and retail prices of agricultural products.

“If they don’t want to, there is still MO [Memorandum Order No.] 26. It’s not just the DTI they’re saying no to, it’s Malacañang and President Duterte, too,” Castelo said.

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“We just wish NFA would move faster,” she added.

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TAGS: affordable rice, National Food Authority (NFA), NFA Rice, supermarkets
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