Manila could import rice soon to replenish its depleting stockpile following the approval of the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) of a 250,000-metric ton (MT) volume of standby authority for National Food Authority (NFA) bufferstock.
NFA Spokesman Rebecca Olarte said the food agency’s current rice- bufferstock volume is at a “limited” level caused by weather disturbances that hit some regions in the country last month.
“Right now, our bufferstock is slowly depleting. As early as November, the NFA has requested for authority for rice importation,” she told reporters in an interview on Monday.
“Now, the NFAC has given us a standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons of rice. But, as to when this will arrive and the implementation of it, it [would still have to pass through] the Food Security Committee,” she added.
Data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the NFA’s rice- stockpile level is only good for three days, way below than its Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council-mandated stock requirement of 15 days at any given time.
Olarte said the NFA has submitted two proposals to import rice to the NFAC, one for 350,000 MT and another for 250,000 MT. However, only the latter was approved by the NFAC last December 22.
The NFA official said the interagency National Food Security Committee (NFSC) is yet to convene to determine the volume of rice be recommended to the NFAC for the NFA to import.
Once the NFSC has made its recommendation, the NFAC then will decide on whether to approve the suggested volume. Furthermore, it would also approve the guidelines on how the NFA will conduct the rice importation.
The NFAC is the highest policy-making body of the NFA.
Olarte said they expect the approval of the rice importation within the month, with the shipments arriving within the first quarter or early second quarter.
“Based on the estimates of our marketing department, it would take two to three months after approval in order for the rice imports to arrive in the country,” she said.
“If this will be approved within the month, then the imports may arrive by around April to May.”
Olarte said the expected rice imports will not affect the prices of palay as the volume would be solely used for bufferstocking to fill the needs of calamity victims.
Olarte added that the total national rice inventory is enough to fill the Filipino consumers’ rice requirement for 92 days.
“We have more than enough supply. So there is no need to worry, whether if we are going to lose supply or there would be price increases. The price and supply of rice at the moment are stable,” she said.
“And even if the imports would arrive during harvest season, they will not be released in the market. Thus, it will not affect the prices of palay and rice,” she added.
In July, the NFA spent some P5.638 billion to import 250,000 MT of rice to prop up its dwindling buffer stock during the lean months, when rice harvest goes down significantly.
The last rice importation made by the NFA was through a government-to-private scheme (G2P), as part of transparency reforms made by NFAC in the food agency.
The government’s purchase of rice through the G2P scheme is covered by Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which provides that the lowest bidder would be named as supplier.