NFA Council allows selected retailers, traders import more rice
The National Food Authority (NFA) council approved the proposal of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to have selected retailers and traders import a total of 350,000 metric tons of rice, which would be sold at a set price.
In an interview, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said the policy-making body of NFA has agreed to this special program, even though DTI is yet to submit a formal proposal for it.
In essence, the program would have selected retailers sell rice at P38 per kilo, regardless if prices start stabilizing or not. Traders, with retail outlets, could also join in the program as well, he said.
So far, Lopez said he has already received a “positive indication” from supermarket chains Puregold and Robinsons. It remains to be seen if this will translate to an actual commitment.
Lopez did not fully disclose the program participants and the import allocation.
“… [the NFA council] agreed also on the 350,000 metric tons. The approval will be given first to DTI on behalf of these participants in this program,” he said.
Shipments should start arriving in phases sometime next month, according to the trade chief, who has been pushing to give the private sector a bigger role in helping curb the high prices of the staple.
DTI’s earlier efforts of helping ease inflation through tapping supermarket group Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (Pagasa) Inc. have been problematic, after reaching deadlocks with NFA on certain issues.
NFA wanted Pag-asa member companies to pay a hefty price to sell NFA rice, even though it was the government who sought the group’s help. Moreover, the fee was not explicitly stated in their agreement.
For this special program, however, Lopez said it would seamless.
While the previous proposal sought more help in selling NFA rice, this program will sell commercial rice, which he previously estimated to account for half of total consumption.
“Since it’s approved by the council already, NFA will readily give the permit under this program that DTI will manage. We can assure selected participants,” he said.
Participants of this program would be selling well-milled rice, Lopez added, noting that the staple would be “up to 25 percent broken.”
The government has been seeking to flood the market with rice to lower the cost of the staple, which helped push inflation to its highest in nearly a decade as of September.
“This will be a big help because while the importation has been coming in. We think that [the current] volume may not be enough because the prices have not really gone down,” he said.
DTI’s program will coincide with NFA’s plan to import more rice. Lopez said this initiative will give consumers “plenty of choices.”
“This is what we see will have a fast impact. That’s the reason why we really want to pursue this,” he said./lb
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