NFA’s 2019 palay buying fund now down to 20%
The National Food Authority (NFA) has already used up about 80 percent of its annual fund for palay procurement during the first semester of the year as it intensified procurement operations to support the farmers.
Data from the agency showed that it had so far bought 5.4 million bags of palay at P20.70 a kilogram during the first six months of the year for P5.6 billion, which allowed it to hit 37 percent of its target for this year.
NFA’s current goal is 1,065 percent higher from the volume it was able to procure in 2018, when a big chunk of its supply was imported.
The surge in the agency’s local operations is due to the passage of the new rice law, which mandated the NFA to meet its rice inventory requirement through buying from local farmers, leaving rice importation to the private sector.
The NFA was given P7 billion for its procurement operations, and with only about P1.4 billion left in its coffers, industry groups are worried the agency would not be able to give ample assistance to farmers for the rest of the year.
But according to an official who requested anonymity, the NFA can still use its corporate funds to continue procurement once harvest season starts. It also has enough storage to accommodate more local produce, he added.
Asked whether doing so would not put the NFA into another debt trap, the official said no but failed to give figures to support the statement.
Procurement operations of the NFA have begun to slow down following the onset of the lean months (July to September), when harvest is almost nil.
According to the state weather bureau, the arrival of typhoons in the country traditionally spikes during the period, with August being the most active month for tropical cyclones. Hence, farmers do not plant to avoid agricultural damages and losses.
As part of the agency’s preparation for the lean season, NFA Administrator Judy Carol Dansal said field offices were already instructed to start milling operations.
“I have directed our field offices that at the onset of the lean months, we must ensure the availability of rice stocks for release anytime during the occurrence of a calamity or disaster,” she said.
Despite economic managers saying that NFA rice would no longer be available in the market, Dansal said they would continue to distribute the subsidized staple for P27 a kilo in compliance with President Duterte’s directive to make it available for poor and low-income consumers.
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