THE National Government needs a palay procurement budget of at least P50 billion to get through any shortages that may result from the El Niño dry spell, the farm industry said.

Danilo V. Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. said in a Viber chat that “the government should provide additional funds for the National Food Authority (NFA), say P50 billion, to buy palay for buffer stocks. This (is equivalent to) an additional 50-day rice buffer.”

“The only protection from El Niño vis-à-vis food supply is to have enough buffer for basic commodities,” he added.

Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Raul Q. Montemayor said that the NFA must find ways to build up inventory for the July-September period — when rice production drops due to the rainy season — without resorting to imports.

He said via chat that “the government must also closely monitor imports because by this time, with the dry season harvest almost at an end, the only remaining source for supplemental stocks going into the lean months will be imports.”

He added that the private sector should consider suspending their import activity with a projected increase in the international price of rice due to weather factors. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz