THE PHILIPPINE CHAMBER of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) said the authority of the National Food Authority (NFA) to maintain a national rice reserve needs to be expanded to include other commodities.
“Lahat ng mga basic commodities pati sibuyas, asukal, pakialaman nila basta ang importante (Every basic commodity including onion and sugar, they should have a hand in, as long as) at the time there is a shortage, NFA is ready to come in,” PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto told reporters last week.
Under the Rice Tariffication Law of 2019 (Republic Act No. 11203), importing rice were removed from the NFA’s functions. Private traders were instead allowed to bring in rice shipments while paying a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain.
The law also funded the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, to modernize the rice industry.
Mr. Fausto said imports of basic goods must be calibrated to meet demand.
“We (should) only import what is needed and at the right time,” he added.
The government has allocated about P9 billion to the NFA for 2023 and 2024.
“(The budget) could be double, it could be triple, it could be five times (higher) because there should be 60 days minimum (buffer stock),” he added.
The NFA is authorized purchase domestically grown rice and hold it in reserve in the event of shortages or calamities.
He said that the NFA should also work with the private sector and local government units in procuring adequate stocks of rice. — Adrian H. Halili