NFA must buy rice from local farmers instead of importing – Piñol
The National Food Authority (NFA) should allocate more funds to buy rice from local farmers instead of importing the commodity from nearby countries to beef up buffer stocks, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said Tuesday.
Based on visual observation, Piñol assumed that "with the vigorous growth of rice in almost all rice farming areas of the country this season, the country could enjoy a bumper harvest."
His statement comes on the heels of conflicting statements from NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino and former Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS) Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Reina A. Valdez regarding rice importation.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week fired Valdez for insisting on issuing rice importation permits for the private sector, which was previously denied by Aquino who preferred a government-to-government (G2G) transaction.
Valdez over the weekend accused Piñol and Aquino of "making it appear there is a shortage of rice" and claimed it was a "desperate attempt" to import rice on a G2G basis.
Valdez noted the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) found that a G2G importation at this point is unnecessary and would cause "additional debt to be incurred by already debt-saddled NFA."
Piñol earlier said he disagrees with the OCS and the NFA on their respective positions that rice must be imported by the private sector and the NFA.
"Now, please reconcile this position to the claim of the dismissed undersecretary that I am conniving with others to 'create an artificial shortage' to justify the rice importation. Ayaw ko nga mag-import dahil sagana ang ani ngayon! Where's the logic?" he said.
In his statement on Tuesday, Piñol said he has tasked different regional offices to validate his estimates that the country may expect a bumper harvest this season.
"Should this observation and assumption be validated, I will advise the National Food Authority Council to put on hold the planned importation by the private sector of an additional 250,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam," he said.
Allowing private traders to import rice at this point "would result in a drop in the buying price of palay produced by Filipino farmers," the Cabinet official said.
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