THE recent revelations by National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal about post-harvest facilities such as mechanical and solar dryers bought by the Department of Agriculture (DA) sometime last year and given to the NFA point only to one direction: our problems with rice will not end just yet.
According to Dansal, the facilities were barely used by farmers and the NFA because they had defects, are incomplete, or cannot be connected to a power source due to incompatibility in physical interface.
Dansal has more complaints coming. She said the trucks that are supposed to help the NFA pick up farmers’ produce aren’t registered and therefore can’t be used outside the agency’s premises.
“In terms of drying facilities, some were delivered only in parcels, while some were delivered completely but lack something like a generator. Some were installed but the power source won’t match,” Dansal said.
Dansal also saw discrepancies or anomalies in the mode of transfer of the facilities from the DA regional offices to NFA regional offices, adding these were “undocumented” and not properly communicated. “They just put it there. We don’t know if it was given to us, lent to us, or donated to us. If it’s a donation, there should be an offer and there should be an acceptance by the receiving party.”
The situations Dansal was referring to occurred in mid-September of last year, when the NFA was transferred to the DA, then headed by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol.
Recently, President Duterte issued the twin orders of a slowdown in the importation of rice, and the NFA’s invigorated buying of palay from farmers so that the emergency buffer stock of the country could be raised from 15 to 30 days.
Even if it had the money, the NFA probably could not do the President’s bidding because it does not have the required space in its warehouses. Exacerbating the problem is the presence of the unusable post-harvest equipment stored in these warehouses, too, particularly in Regions 2, 6, 11, 12, and Caraga.
Okay, the lawmakers and the public have heard Dansal’s complaints. It is time for her and for the new agriculture secretary, William Dar, to do something positive about them.