PHL likely to import 580,050 MT of rice next year–NFA’s Aquino


State-run National Food Authority (NFA) has projected that it would need to import some 580,050 metric tons (MT) of rice next year to make sure its stockpile is sufficient throughout 2018.

NFA Administrator Jayson Laureano Y. Aquino gave the estimate during his agency’s recent 2018 budget deliberation at the House of the Representatives, where he defended the need for a P7-billion subsidy for its buffer-stocking purposes.

NFA Spokesman Marietta J. Ablaza told the BusinessMirror that the projected rice importation by the government in 2018 was calculated based on the food agency’s mandated stockpile requirement and its target distribution next year.

“The NFA is mandated to have 15 days inventory at any given time and 30 days at the start of July 1. At the same time, we want to fulfill our distribution target, so the 580,050 MT was based on our supply-and-demand [assessment],” Ablaza said in a recent interview. “So that’s our proposal for us to complete our distribution target [next year].” However, Ablaza said the rice-importation scheme for the proposed 580,050 MT would depend on whatever the NFA Council would approve.

“That depends on what the NFA Council approves, whether it is open-tender or [we] go back to government-to-government [scheme]. It will depend next year,” she said.

Ablaza added that the proposed 580,050 MT of rice importation is on top of the NFA’s target palay procurement of 1.2 million MT next year. The food agency’s palay-procurement target next year is 433 percent more than the 255,000 MT it is eyeing to buy this year.

Given the target palay procurement and rice importation, the NFA is eyeing to achieve a rice-distribution volume of 1.355 MMT next year, according to documents provided by the NFA.

“1.2 million [MT] of palay is what we need to buy in order to fill our importation. We really have to work double time in order for us to achieve the target,” Ablaza said. “Palay is a better buffer stock than rice because we can store it longer and we can schedule the milling whenever we need to. Plus, we want to support our farmers.”

In his presentation, Aquino said the NFA is mandated to provide support price to farmers to ensure their economic returns while providing low-income consumers with affordable rice in the market.

“Having support price to farmers while providing affordable rice in the market are among the government’s social services that require subsidy,” he said.

The NFA chief said the fivefold increment in their palay-procurement target next year is in line with President Duterte’s pronouncement to prioritize local Filipino rice farmers than imports.

Aquino added that it is also the government’s planned support for the farmers with the expected impact of cheap rice from abroad should the quantitative restriction on the staple is scrapped next year.

“The President pronounced that the NFA should exert effort to source its buffer stock from local farmers,” Aquino said. “The farmers are expected to seek government support because of the impending influx of cheap rice from abroad resulting in low farm-gate prices.”

Aquino estimated—based on a P18-per-kilogram pricing—that the NFA needs a budget of P21.6 billion to buy the 1.2 MMT palay from Filipino farmers next year.

“The procured paddy will be converted into rice. After serving its purpose as buffer stock, it will be sold to NFA accredited outlets at P30 per kg to provide low-income consumers low-priced rice,” he said.

“The proceeds of the sales will be used to augment the financial requirement for personnel services and maintenance and other operating expenses,” he added.


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