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NFA proposes to import 330,000MT of rice

The National Food Authority (NFA) is planning to import over 330,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to replenish the country’s buffer stock of the staple in anticipation of calamities.

In a statement, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said the NFA is proposing the importation of 330,000 MT of rice “to cover an expected deficit in the country’s buffer stock for the relief operations of various agencies in the event of calamities this year.”

On Thursday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also sits as the secretary of Agriculture, said the Philippines’ rice supply is in “good shape” but the NFA’s buffer stock is currently low and need to be replenished to reach at least nine days worth of buffer stock.

The PCO, likewise, said the NFA’s proposed buffer stock of rice is equivalent to nine days of national consumption from July 2023 onwards and “will ensure sufficient volume for calamity and relief requirements from July to December this year.”

Marcos, however, said the NFA should buy its buffer stock from local farmers.

Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law removed the regulatory and import licensing issuance functions of the NFA and reduced its mandate to emergency buffer stocking of rice sourced solely from local farmers and allowed the private sector to freely import rice subject to a tariff.

But, under the NFA’s proposed rice importation strategy, the agency proposes that the rice importation arrangement be undertaken through government-to-government transactions, either through the Office of the President or its designated agency.

The PCO said the NFA, given the agency's budgetary constraints, expects its buffer stocks will decrease to less than 500,000 sacks by July 2023 —equivalent to less than a day of public consumption.

“The NFA may use its credit lines with the Development Bank of the Philippines and/or the Land Bank to finance the importation and provide logistics and management support,” the PCO said.

In a separate statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) slammed the proposed 330,000 MT rice importation of the NFA as it is “a great disservice to farmers and Filipinos.”

The militant farmers’ group said the government should be buying more rice from farmers “rather than allowing rice importers to make a killing.”

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) also opposed the importation strategy as the NFA can buy cheaper rice from local farmers than imports.

SINAG executive director Jayson Cainglet said the landed cost of imported rice amounts to P36 per kilo, much costlier than the locally produced rice at P20 to P21 per kilo.

“Local millers have long offered to mill the palay of NFA at discounted prices,” Cainglet said.

He lamented how the government’s first recourse is importation across commodities.

Under the Department of Agriculture’s 2023 supply outlook, the country’s total supply is at 16.98 million metric tons (MMT), which is sufficient to cover this year’s demand estimated at 15.29 MMT.

“This would leave the country with an ending balance of 1.69 MMT, which is equivalent to 45 days of buffer stock, instead of the 90-day ideal buffer stock to stabilize the price of rice,” according to a DA briefer.—AOL, GMA Integrated News