NFA Council gives 250,000-MT rice importation the green light

The National Food Authority (NFA) Council has approved the procurement process to import 250,000 metric tons of rice, a Malacañang official said Thursday.
The move by the policy-setting council is envisioned to boost the NFA’s buffer stock.
At a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, Assistant Secretary Jonas George Soriano said the inter-agency council arrived at the decision during a special meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.
“The said rice import is set to arrive May of this year. This is to allow the NFA to have enough buffer stock for the upcoming lean months of the year, in which rice harvest is at its lowest,” said Soriano, who works for Cabinet Secretary and NFA Council chairperson Leoncio Evasco.
The importation will be made under a government-to-private mode of procurement.
The NFA council also backed a special audit of the grains agency’s procurement and distribution operations to determine which areas can still be improved.
“The audit shall be administered by the Commission on Audit so as to assess the current NFA operations to determine points for improvements and streamline bottlenecks in the agency’s procurement and distribution processes with the end goal of making NFA cost effective and operationally efficient,” Soriano said.
“It was also agreed that the Department of Trade and Industry shall step up and intensify price monitoring to ensure unwarranted increases and or price manipulation in rice prices,” he said.
The council also ordered the NFA management to increase domestic buying of palay, especially during the early days of the harvest months “through creative strategies in the form incentives or sweeteners for farmers to sell to NFA ... The main thrust is to buy locally first prior to considering importation. We protect our farmers first,” Soriano noted.
The updates came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte said he preferred the NFA Council to make pronouncements about the rice supply situation in the country.
The President and his official family acknowledged during a Cabinet meeting early this month that NFA Administrator Jason Aquino made a “misleading” claim last February that there was rice shortage, causing market prices to increase.

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