NFA: No knowledge of reported 1.3 million ton rice import plan
THE National Food Authority (NFA) has rejected a news report from Thailand that it has plans to import up to 1.3 million tons of rice this year.
ThaiVisa News reported on its Website on April 10 that a Deputy Director-General of the Thai Department of Foreign Trade, Keerati Rushchano, claimed to have been told about the import plans by the NFA.
The Thai official was quoted as saying that NFA’s import estimate was one million to 1.3 million tons of rice this year.
NFA Spokesperson Marietta J. Ablaza said she had no knowledge of such import plans.
“We have no information on that,” Ms. Ablaza said in a phone interview last week.
The Office of the Cabinet Secretary revealed a March 3 letter from NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino addressed to the Vietnamese authorities, in which the NFA head denied a request for the extension of the window to import rice by private-sector traders, in anticipation of “immediate” government-to-government rice imports.
In a March briefing, Mr. Aquino denied reaching a deal with Vietnam on a government-to-government import scheme, saying that it “was only a plan.”
Mr. Aquino has not replied to BusinessWorld’s request for comment.
The agency, with the approval of a higher body, the NFA Council - of which it is a member - serves as the lone importer of rice shipments in government-to-government deals.
Since late last year, the NFA has been pushing for the shipment of the remaining 250,000 ton balance out of the 500,000 tons of government-to- government rice imports approved for 2016.
The NFA Council rejected this proposal citing the lack of endorsement from the National Food Security Committee, the interagency body that determines the need for rice imports.
Last week, the NFA said the country needs to import 490,800 tons on a government-to-government basis to fill the supply gap during the lean months, which run from July to August.
The NFA must under the law maintain a rice buffer stock sufficient for 15 days at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean months.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has determined that rice imports during the harvest will dampen prices realized by farmers and ordered that the stock replenishment process prioritizes locally-produced rice.
The NFA has said that it faces stiff competition from private middlemen as it can offer only a support price of P17 per kilogram.
The grains agency targets the purchase of 4.61 million bags of unhusked rice, or palay, this year and has so far bought 134,355 bags in the first three months of the year.