NFSC: Import 250,000 MT of rice

22.05.2017

The interagency National Food Security Committee (NFSC) has recommended the importation of 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to boost the buffer stock of the National Food Authority (NFA’s) during the lean months.

In a radio interview over the weekend, NFA Spokesman Marietta J. Ablaza said the NFSC has made the recommendation to the NFA Council (NFAC) following their meeting on May 18. The volume is part of the 500,000-MT standby authority approved by the council in 2015.

Ablaza also said the NFAC is set to hold a special meeting this week to decide on the final volume of rice that the NFA will import via the so-called government-to-private (G2P) scheme. The NFAC is vested with the authority to approve the volume of rice that the government will import.

“The NFAC will have a special meeting soon to decide if the 250,000 MT is enough,” Ablaza told the BusinessMirror when asked whether the recomended volume would be sufficient to allow the NFA to have 30 days of rice stocks come July.

As of May 20, the NFA official said the rice stockpile of the food agency is enough to fill the country’s requirement for eight days.

Based on the BusinessMirror’s computation, the NFA needs to import at least 707,000 MT of rice to meet its Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac)-mandated stock requirement of 30 days at the onset of the lean months. The national daily rice requirement is pegged at 32,150 MT.

Based on an assessment by the NFSC of the local harvest and supply situation, the government imports only the shortfall in local harvest for buffer stocking purposes.

Ablaza said the terms of reference (TOR) for the G2P importation of the 250,000 MT and the guidelines for the 2017 minimum access volume (MAV) rice imports have already been presented before the NFAC.

“Once approved, we will immediately conduct the bidding process,” she said.

Ablaza said rice imports under the MAV scheme of the World  Trade Organization are expected to arrive during the lean months so as not to affect the farm-gate price of palay in the fourth quarter.

“All imports should arrive before harvest season so as not to depress the price of palay. Moreover, I think private importers tend to dispose their MAV rice imports during the lean months, when the price of rice is slightly higher,” Ablaza said.

The NFA’s importation of 250,000 MT of rice is covered by Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which provides that the lowest bidder would be named the supplier of rice.

“For the last three years the NFA has been importing through G2G [government-to-government transaction]. Hopefully, with this open international tender, we could get cheaper rice,” Ablaza said.

The NFSC made its recommendation following the pronouncement made by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco Jr., who also chairs the NFAC, that the council has decided to allow the NFA to import rice via the G2P scheme. The NFAC has also given its nodto the private sector to buy MAV rice.

‘Calibration needed’

Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling said the NFA needed to import rice as its buffer stock helps stabilize the price of the staple, especially during the lean months.

“The price of rice is high because the buying price of the traders for palay at the farm-gate level were higher because the NFA was not allowed to import rice in March in order not to depress the price of palay,” Tanchuling told the

BusinessMirror.

However, Tanchuling urged the NFAC to calibrate the arrival of imported rice under the 2017 MAV so as to not affect the rice farmers’ income during the next harvest season, which starts in October.

“In terms of production level, the farmers will not be affected by the importation because they have already started planting and, most probably, they will plant more because the buying price of palay in the previous quarter was high, meaning they now have production capital,” she said.

“However, the buying price of palay is a different issue, as it could be affected by the buying level of the traders if there would be an influx of imports by the time of harvest. So, they should calibrate the imports’ arrival, I suggest that it arrives during the lean months before the next harvest starts,” Tanchuling added.

Edwin Y. Paraluman, chairman of the Philippine Farmers Advisory Board, agreed with Tanchuling, saying that the arrival of imports during the lean months would pull down the price of rice at the retail level.

“The rice imports should arrive during the lean months, before the next harvest season. It should arrive by lean months because the price has already increased by at least 3 pesos and if we will not import price then the price could even spike higher,” Paraluman told the BusinessMirror.

“As much as we farmers don’t like importation, we cannot do anything because we really have a shortfall in production. We don’t want our fellow Filipinos to starve because we did not import to have sufficient supply,” he added.

Paraluman, who also sits as the farmer’s sector representative in the NFAC, said he would urge the council to ensure that MAV rice imports would not arrive during the next harvest season.
 

businessmirror

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