NFA must retain licensing power post-QR: Stakeholders

FARMER organizations and rice industry groups are urging the government to retain the licensing power of the National Food Authority (NFA) to prevent “disorderly manipulation” of imports and stocks of the staple.

Representatives of the Federation of Free Farmers, Centro Saka, Alyansa Agrikultura, Rice Watch Action Network, Paragos-Pilipinas, National Union of Rural Based Organization, Pambansang Katipunan ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan, Ka Tribu Ug and Lasang Foundation and Cacao/Coffee Alliance issued a position paper outlining the groups’ stance on the removal of the country’s quantitative restriction (QR) on rice.

“We firmly believe that NFA should continue to license importers, in order to prevent disorderly manipulation of stocks and allow for a smooth transition to rice trade liberalization,” the five-page position paper read, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror.

The groups said the NFA should not be abolished once the QR on rice is replaced with tariffs upon the passage of a rice tariffication law. In this regard, the groups pitched the need for a “legislated” mandate for NFA to maintain a certain volume of buffer stocks.

“We believe that the NFA should be retained, particularly its buffer stocking functions, to ensure that stocks will be available in case of calamities and emergencies,” they said.

Furthermore, the groups urged the government to retain the NFA’s market distribution power but called for reforms in how the food agency conducts it.

“At the same time, we recognize the need to reduce the losses of the agency while making its interventions more strategic and effective,” they said. “For example, NFA’s distribution of subsidized rice need not be conducted nationwide and could be concentrated in poor and depressed areas,” they added.

The groups also threw their support to hiking the NFA’s buying price for palay in order for it to replenish its buffer stocks through local procurement.

“NFA could procure from farmers at competitive prices by periodically conducting auctions to replenish its buffer stocks, instead of buying at fixed prices.”

The groups also proposed that the NFA “develop services that will plug gaps in the value chain.”

This could be done by “giving farmers access to its post-harvest and marketing facilities, or developing a trading system that will allow farmers to store their produce in NFA warehouses and sell them electronically to buyers in various parts of the country,” according to the paper.

“Steps could also be taken to reduce the operating costs of the agency and generate revenues from services without necessarily engaging in costly market intervention,” they said. Furthermore, the groups called for reforms within the NFA to weed out corruption and anomalous practices.

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Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas is a graduate of the UST Journalism School (Batch 2016). He currently covers agribusiness for the BusinessMirror. He joined the news outfit in August 2016.

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