Philippines. NFA ends rice import function

18.05.2017

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco said the NFA Council has decided to end NFA’s commercial functions and just focus on being a regulatory agency. File

The interagency National Food Authority Council said yesterday the latest rice importation would be the last for the government, as it moves toward a more private-led scheme to eradicate corruption in the state-run grains agency.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco said the NFA Council has decided to end NFA’s commercial functions and just focus on being a regulatory agency.

He said the agency is corruption-prone because of the conflict of interest for having both proprietary and regulatory functions.

“We believe that we should let the private sector do the importation of rice instead of NFA. They know the market forces way better than NFA,” Evasco said.

“Under the law, the NFA is mandated to ensure adequacy of supply and stability of commercial prices at levels within the reach of low-income families. The NFA, therefore, is not required to directly participate in the market,” he said.

The council is now urging Congress to immediately amend the NFA charter to end its monopoly on rice importation and eventually streamline its functions.

Ending government-led importation is also the suggestion of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to President Duterte.

“Importing rice bleeds government of resources and deepens indebtedness. It will still be advantageous and cheaper for the government to buy produce from farmers than for NFA to import rice,” Piñol said.

Meanwhile, Evasco said there is no rice shortage even if NFA’s current rice inventory can only last for eight days compared to its mandated 15 day buffer stock.

“There is actually no shortage yet. But the lean months is fast approaching hence we need to prepare. Importation of rice is all about timing. Let us not speculate on having a shortage. An alarmist stance will only trigger the world market price to spike up,” he said.

The NFA is mandated to maintain a food security reserve good for at least 15 days at any given time.

By July 1, which marks the onset of the lean season for rice, the NFA must have at least a 30-day buffer stock to meet the requirements of victims of calamities and emergencies.


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