NFA’s rice-procurement program gets P7-B budget

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A member of the House Committee on Appropriations said last Sunday the national government has allocated P7 billion to enable the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy 388,889 metric tons (MT) of unhusked rice from farmers next year.

Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel of Surigao del Sur said the P7 billion is included in the 2018 P3.7-trillion national budget, which is set to be approved on Tuesday by the lower chamber.

“The fresh subsidy will allow the NFA to buy an extra 388,889 MT of unhusked rice, or palay, from local growers at P18 per kilogram. The supply will then form part of the country’s Strategic Rice Reserve,” Pimentel said in a statement.

Pimentel, also a chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, added the new funding is in accordance with President Duterte’s directive for the NFA to buy more locally produced rice.

Under the Strategic Rice Reserve, the NFA is mandated to keep stockpile rice equal to at least 15 days of national consumption at any given time, and equal to at least 30 days consumption by the start of the lean season on July 1 of every year.

After serving its purpose as stockpile, the lawmaker said the NFA then sells the rice to accredited outlets at P30 per kg to help keep retail prices down.

Next year Pimentel said the NFA intends to procure up to 1.2 million MT (MMT) of palay from local planters and distribute up to 1.35 MMT of rice.

Based on documents submitted to Congress, he said the NFA also indicated it may import another 580,050 MT of rice next year, if needed.

“Under the law, obtaining additional rice supplies from abroad is always an option, in case of calamities, fortuitous events, or shortfall in local production,” Pimentel said.

“But we would really prefer that the NFA buy as much palay as possible from local farmers, who are under tremendous pressure owing to the flood of rice supplies from abroad due to trade liberalization, as well as outright smuggling,” he added.

The NFA is targeting to purchase some 1.2 MMT of unmilled rice from farmers in 2018. The volume is significantly higher than the 255,000 MT the food agency is targeting to buy this year.

“Palay is a better buffer stock than milled rice because the NFA can store it longer and we can schedule the milling whenever we need to. Plus, we want to support our farmers,” NFA Spokesman Marietta J. Ablaza earlier told the BusinessMirror.

Citing NFA data, Pimentel said only 31 of the country’s 81 provinces are actually producing more rice than they are consuming.

In Luzon, he said, the “rice surplus” provinces are: Abra, Ifugao, Kalinga, IIocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan and Camarines Sur.

He added the surplus provinces in the Visayas, include: Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, Biliran and Leyte.

“In Mindanao, the surplus provinces are Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Agusan del Sur and Maguindanao”, Pimentel said.

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