PH needs to import more rice this year


Even if President Rodrigo Duterte wants the National Food Authority (NFA) to maintain a 60-day buffer stock or “fill its warehouses to the roof,” the reality that the state-run grains agency can’t even sustain inventory level good for 15 days still remains.

An NFA official said what Duterte wants the agency to do will not happen anytime soon, as even the officials of Department of Agriculture (DA) are still discussing how to implement it more than a month since the order was made.

“It can be done but you have to consider a lot of factors like budget, logistics, people,” the official said. “And you have to have a combination of local procurement and importation and right now, we can’t even procure locally [because of low buying price of palay].”

He emphasized that if the government will push for 60-day buffer stocking, it would need to maintain 1.9 million metric tons (MT) of rice at any given time.

Meanwhile, the NFA announced yesterday that rice imports will start arriving on or before the end of this month that will enable the agency to flood the market with rice priced at between P27 and P32 per kilogram.

The expected arrivals are part of the 250,000 metric tons (MT) contracted with Thailand and Vietnam under a government-to-government procurement scheme, the fastest way to replenish NFA buffer stocks that had been depleted to a very low level.

Right now, the law only requires NFA to maintain a rice buffer stock good to last for 15 days at any given time and for 30 days at the onset of the lean months.

NFA is currently looking to import more rice this year as the expected supply of 500,000 metric tons (MT) — which the country will purchase through government to government (G2G) and government to private (G2P) importation — will not be enough to permanently stabilize the price of rice in the local market.

Also, the expected supply is only going to be good for 15 days or less.

At this point, NFA still sees the need to import more for the lean months which will start in July until September, NFA Spokesperson Rex Estoperez said.

However, he said that NFA Council — the highest policy-making body of NFA — has not yet taken up this issue.

Another NFA official, who refused to be named, said that if NFA Council were to follow the instruction of NFA Administrator Jason Aquino, who also serves as the vice chair of the Council, another importation should happen by September this year or just in time when the world prices have already gone down.

In the meantime, Estoperez said the NFA will prioritize distribution over buffer stocking despite its mandate to maintain rice buffer stock.

NFA’s inventory remains at zero level despite the agency’s efforts to procure palay from local farmers.


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