THE NATIONAL Food Authority (NFA) said it has sufficient funding to fulfill its domestic rice procurement mandate, despite high buying prices that have persuaded farmers to sell it 4.1 million bags of palay, or unmilled rice, as of May 20.

In a statement Tuesday, NFA Officer-in-Charge Administrator Tomas R. Escarez said he had to deliver reassurances amid reports of delayed payments to farmers in some NFA buying stations.

“NFA management assures those isolated instances are being addressed at the soonest possible time,” it said in the statement.

The NFA has lost its rice importing functions under the rice tariffication law, which liberalizes the import process for private entities. It has been relegated to maintaining a buffer stock from domestically-produced rice.

The NFA currently pays P20.70 per kilogram (kg) for palay, consisting of the P17.00 per kilogram support price and an additional P3.00 as a buffer stocking incentive (BSI); a P0.20 drying incentive; a P0.20 delivery incentive; and a P0.30 cooperative development incentive fee (CDIF).

The average farmgate price for palay paid by commercial rice buyers fell 0.5% week-on-week during the second week of May to P18.35 per kilogram (kg), the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Mr. Escarez has advised NFA field offices to request funds in advance to be able to pay for palay deliveries from farmers.

As of May 20, the NFA has bought about 4.1 million bags of palay worth P4.2 billion. The NFA’s ultimate target is to procure 15 to 30 million bags to keep in inventory for emergencies. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang