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Marcos: PH rice supply in good shape but NFA buffer stock too low

The country's rice supply is in "good shape" but the buffer stock of the National Food Authority needs replenishing, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday.

Marcos thus remarked after meeting in Malacañang with officials of the Department of Agriculture which he leads as secretary and those of the National Food Authority.

“We looked at much namang maganda naman ang situwasyon natin, hindi tayo magkukulang sa bigas. At tinitignan natin lahat ng paraan upang ang presyo ay macontrol natin at hindi naman masyadong tataas,” Marcos said.

(We looked at it and our situation is very good, we will not lack a supply of rice. And we are looking at all ways so that we can control the price and not increase it too much.)

The President, however, said the NFA’s buffer stock needed to be increased because it is currently “low.”

“Magpa-plano kami kung kailangan mag-import, kung kailangan magpahaba, magparami ng buffer stock sa NFA dahil masyado ng mababa. 'Yun lang ang nakita naming problema, mababa yung buffer stock ng NFA,” Marcos said.

(We will plan if we need to import, if we need to extend, or increase the buffer stock in NFA because it is too low. That's the only problem we saw. The NFA's buffer stock is low.)

“Kailangan bumili 'yung NFA para umabot siya ng at least nine days na buffer stock. So yun ang pinaplano natin ngayon kung papaano nila gagawin. Dahil ang NFA kailangan bibilhin nila yung kanilang buffer stock, bibilhin nila sa local producer,” he added.

(The NFA needs to buy so that it can reach at least nine days of buffer stock. So that's what we are planning now on how they will do it. Because the NFA has to buy their buffer stock, they will buy it from the local producer.)

“Ang problema, kapag sila ay pumasok sa merkado, pagsila ay namili na para i-replace yung buffer stock na ang kulang nila ay tataas naman ang presyo ng bigas dahil marami silang bibilin. Kaya’t yun ang hinahanapan namin ng paraan para i-adjust. Siguro ang magagawa natin ay ang pagbili ay hindi bigla. Hindi malaki,” he added.

(The problem is, when they enter the market, when they shop to replace the buffer stock that they lacked, the price of rice will increase because they will buy a lot. So that's what we're looking for a way to adjust. Maybe what we can do is that the purchase will not be sudden and big.)

Marcos said the government was trying to make sure that the NFA would be able to build up its buffer stock.

He also said that the agricultural sector has been “progressing nicely” and beginning to come back beyond pre-pandemic levels.

“In terms of the general supply for the country, I think we are in good shape. Although we’ll still have to import, our importations have come down. Our agricultural sector is beginning to come back beyond pre-pandemic levels. And so that’s progressing nicely,” he added.

During the meeting, the DA reported the recent figures on the Sanitary Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) issuances for 2023 and the rice outlook covering supply and demand for the first quarter from January to March.

The department also discussed projections for the succeeding quarters, the prices of palay per region wherein the national price is set at P17.42 per kilo for fresh and P20.44 per kilo for dry palay, and the international prices of rice from Vietnam, Thailand, and India from March 2022 to March 2023.

The NFA, on the other hand, provided details on the rice supplies which include the reserves for times of calamities, measures in maintaining the shelf-life of procured rice, factors affecting the NFA prices for palay especially during dry and wet seasons, and the proposed action to address these concerns.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, and Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil also joined the President.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian (Rice Industry Development), Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla (Policy, Planning, and Regulations), Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Rex Estoperez and Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa, alongside DA-BPI Officer-in-Charge Assistant Director Ruel Gesmundo and NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco were the attendees from the DA.

The DA earlier said the retail prices of rice were expected to rise in the next few weeks due to high palay farmgate prices amid the dry season, higher cost of inputs, and low buffer stock.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute, meanwhile, has said an estimated P7.2 billion worth of rice is wasted in the Philippines in a year.

The DA expects a shortage of 80,000 metric tons of rice from July to September. —NB, GMA Integrated News