Philippines. Rice import plan on hold


Despite the National Food Authority’s (NFA)  assertion  the country needs to immediately import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice, the Department of Agriculture (DA) believes otherwise.

Emmanuel Piñol, DA secretary, is putting this plan on hold and said the importation “may have to be reviewed and validated as the DA ...expects a bumper rice harvest this planting season.”

“So far, there was no reported infestation and this season’s crops have not been affected by inclement weather,”  Piñol said.

The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest rice buyers, importing its requirements mainly from neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, the world’s number two  and three  rice exporters after India.

 The  NFA had proposed to fast track the importation of the 250,000 MT of rice out of the 500,000 MT rice imports approved for 2016 so the grains would arrive by end-April to boost thinning stocks ahead of the lean domestic harvest season beginning July.

 The agency had cited the need to  replenish rice inventory through a government-negotiated importation  to ensure it can effectively respond to the needs of emergency or calamity victims in the coming lean months and allow it  to preposition the stocks strategically.

NFA  likewise wanted to boost stocks to prevent price manipulation, hoarding and speculation by private traders.

The final say, however, is with the  NFA Council, the government panel that approves rice importation. The council is chaired by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco.

In an earlier interview,  NFA administrator Jason Aquino, said the Philippines cannot afford to procrastinate “when our people’s most basic food is at stake.”

Aquino said  the only way NFA can fill the deficit in its rice buffer stock requirement is through importation and any delay “in getting the 250,000 MT into our government warehouses may lead to disastrous consequences.”

 He said while farmers are currently harvesting their summer crop, the NFA cannot compete with the private traders who are buying higher than the government support price of P17 per kilogram (kg.), even with additional incentives amounting to P0.70 to P1.00 per kg.

The agency said  based on its monitoring, traders in most areas across the country are buying  palay at P18 to P20 per kg.

 Aquino  said  the NFA also needs to beef up its stock inventory to prevent any nefarious business activities such as price manipulation, hoarding and price speculation as the agency is also mandated to stabilize the price and supply of rice.

 “Although we have enough procurement funds to buy local harvest, our farmers would be better off selling to private traders at higher prices. Thus, we cannot possibly build up our mandated 30-day food security buffer stock before the lean months via local procurement alone,” Aquino had said.

The Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council said  the NFA, as food security watchdog of government, should 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 from July to September, based on the daily consumption requirement of 32,150 MT or 643,000 bags.


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