February 18, 2018, 5:58 am
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250,000 MT rice importation okayed

THE National Food Authority (NFA) Council yesterday approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice, which is expected to arrive in June to augment the country’ buffer stock for the rainy season and in anticipation of calamities that would strike the country.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. said the NFA Council had a special session following the recent concerns about the availability of NFA rice and the current supply of rice in the market.

Evasco said there is no rice shortage, as the nationwide rice supply stands at 121 days or about 3.8 million metric tons, covering both NFA and commercial rice.

He said the current supply is expected to increase with the arrival of 507,017.60 metric tons under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) Rice Importation Program, before the end of February and before the end of August.

He said government needs to augment the current buffer stock which is down to two days. He said the NFA should have a buffer stock of up to 15 days during the peak or harvest season and up to 30 days during the off season.

Evasco said to ensure the importation is open, transparent and inclusive, the NFA Council adopted the government-to-private importation or open tender based on the same terms of reference in the 2017 government-to-private (G2P) procurement. 

G2P importation is when government buys imported rice from private importers who use permits under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme to import rice.

Evasco said government is looking at Vietnam and Thailand, among others, as potential sources of the additional rice imports.

He said he would have preferred to buy from local farmers instead of importing rice but the NFA buys palay locally at a low P17 per kilo.

Evasco said the buying price of palay cannot be raised as it may open the “floodgates for inflation for all commodities.” 

He said this was the warning of the economic team.

Evasco also warned of possible charges of economic sabotage against those engaged in hoarding.

He said government officials who fail to do their job, especially in the light of the rice supply and price issues, may also face charges for dereliction of duty.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said studies showed that about 3.8 metric tons of rice are lost yearly to poor postharvest facilities, enough to feed 14 million Filipinos.

He said a 2010 government study showed that 4.3 percent of palay is wasted during harvest, 5.5 percent during milling, 5.9 percent during drying, and 0.8 percent while in storage.

Government reported a palay harvest of 19.28 million metric tons in 2017, up by 9.4 percent from the previous year. When milled, a kilo of palay yields about 650 grams of rice.
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