By Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz & Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas
The country’s rice inventory as of May 1 declined by 13 percent to 3.21 million metric tons (MMT), from 3.69 MMT recorded a year ago, according to the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Despite the year-on-year reduction in stocks, the PSA said in its report, titled “Rice and Corn Stocks Inventory”, the volume is sufficient to meet the rice-consumption requirement of Filipinos for 95 days.
“Stocks in the households would be enough for 44 days, those in commercial warehouses for 43 days, and those in National Food Authority [NFA] depositories for eight days,” the report read.
Of the rice inventory as of May 1, the PSA said 46.38 percent were with the households, 45.21 percent were in commercial warehouses, while 8.41 percent were in the NFA depositories. Nearly 75 percent of NFA stocks consisted of imported rice.
PSA data also showed that NFA stocks during the period reached 270,180 metric tons (MT), while commercial warehouses accounted for 1.453 MMT. Households held a total of 1.49 MMT.
“Compared with the previous year, rice stocks in the households and in commercial
warehouses grew by 0.96 percent and 39.39 percent, respectively,” the report read.
“Rice stocks in NFA depositories decreased by 17.43 percent,” it added.
On a monthly basis, however, data from the PSA showed that total rice inventory as of May 1 was 20.13 percent higher than the 2.68 MMT posted in April.
Rice stocks in households and commercial warehouses were higher compared with their April levels. The PSA said stocks in households rose by 3.47 percent while stocks held in commercial warehouses grew 60.15 percent.
However, rice stocks in NFA depositories declined by 17.43 percent.
The government periodically monitors rice inventory to determine whether it would need to import the staple to beef up the country’s stockpile, especially during the lean months.
PSA data also showed that total corn-stock inventory tripled to 1.55 MMT, from last year’s record of 517,240 MT.
While welcoming the move of the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) to allow the importation of 250,000 MT of rice, a vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations last Sunday said Congress must pursue its investigation into the true state of the national rice inventory when session resumes in July.
Nacionalista Party Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said Congress should find out if Filipinos are not facing the specter of a shortage of the staple during the traditional July-to-September lean months.
“We are relieved that the NFAC has decided to act swiftly on this urgent matter. But the House should, likewise, swiftly initiate a probe on the country’s rice inventory. This should be done at the soonest possible time so that we can assure the public that they won’t have to either pay more for rice or fall in line to buy the staple in the coming lean months,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
The NFAC has approved the recommendation of the National Food Security Committee (NFSC) to allow the importation of up to 250,000 MT of rice via the government-to-private sector (G2P) mode.
“The G2P arrangement is a welcome move as this would be more competitive, open and transparent. This method would have to undergo the process under the Government Procurement Reform Act, so this would reduce the possibility of hanky-panky and encourage more bidders to participate. With more bidders, any monopoly enjoyed by the usual suppliers would be broken,” Villafuerte said.
However, the lawmaker said this development should not deter the lower chamber from pursuing an inquiry into the country’s rice stocks.
Last month Villafuerte filed House Resolution 993 urging the appropriate committee to “conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the true state of rice inventory in the Philippines to ensure adequate and affordable rice supply during the traditional lean months.”
“An adequate rice supply is necessary for our food security, especially during times of calamities and emergencies,” added Villafuerte, who is also the vice chairman of the House committee on local government.
Through a public inquiry, the resolution said the House could “come up with policy proposals for government to ensure ample and affordable supply of this staple, in light of fears that the country’s current buffer stock might not be enough to last us through the traditional lean months after this summer harvest season.”
“A congressional inquiry is in order to help Malacañang determine the real supply situation, and then draw up proactive measures, including possible imports, to avert a possible supply shortfall later this year,” Villafuerte said.