July 22, 2018, 10:44 pm
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NFA to import more rice

The National Food Authority (NFA) yesterday said it would seek approval to import an extra 500,000 tons of rice this year to ensure healthy supply and stable prices in the local market.

The cargoes should arrive in the country in December, the NFA said.

The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest buyers of rice and usually imports from its Southeast Asian neighbors Vietnam and Thailand. Fresh demand could underpin rice export prices in those countries, which have fallen amid increasing supply. 

It has not been decided yet whether any additional purchase would come via another government-to-government deal or through the private sector, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino told reporters. Approval would come from the NFA Council, a panel composed of the government’s economic managers.

For this year, the council has so far approved purchases totaling 1.3 million tons, including the 500,000 tons the NFA has bought under government-to-government deals with Vietnam and Thailand. Private traders have been allowed to import up to 805,200 tons. 

The Philippines recently rushed to import rice to stabilize retail prices of the national staple that had steadily risen amid the absence of low-priced NFA supply in the local market.

Higher rice prices have added pressure to Philippine inflation, which accelerated in the first half of the year to the highest in at least five years, hurting the economy to some extent and denting President Duterte’s popularity. 

“We will submit this plan soon but we have to state that the NFA Council only meets once a month. 

What we really want is for this shipment to arrive on time, we consider any modes of procurement (government-to-government or open tender,)” Aquino said.

 “We are planning as soon as possible, we will be proposing that because we don’t want rice imports to once again arrive during the rainy season as it causes logistics problem. Just like the recent arrival in Subic, the vessel arrived as early as June 2 but we still cannot fully unload it due to increment weather so we want this importation to arrive earlier,” he added.

Earlier this year, the government already procured 250,000 MT of 25 percent broken, well milled long grain white rice under open tender which attracted suppliers from Thailand and Singapore and another 250,000 MT via government-to-government deal with Vietnam, consisting of 200,000 MT of 25 percent and 50,000 MT of 15 percent broken rice
 
The agency said its recommended volume of rice importations is also being verified by the Food Security Committee which is being manned by personnel from the NFA, the National Economic Development Authority, Department of Agriculture, and the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration, among others. 

The  multi-agency committee determines the number though its outlook of local rice production and shortfall.

 The NFA said that as of July 11, 2018, its inventory is good for 2.5 days while industry stock is good for 73 days. The industry stock is the total rice available in the country be it from the NFA, commercial traders and even household stocks.

Aquino reiterated NFA’s plea to amend the law that limits NFA to buy at a support price of only P17 per kg for clean and dry local palay citing the pending lifting of quantitative restrictions will pull down farmgate prices of palay.

 The agency also launched its Kontra Abuso hotline at 09278715921 that will provide the public with a 24/7 venue to report complaints and irregularities in the rice sector.
 
The NFA said the new service will be manned by its Security Services and Investigation Department. Upon receipt of complaints, the team will record the details and refer it to concerned offices for immediate action within a 72 hour timeframe. (Reuters, J. Macapagal)
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