THE rice inventory held by the National Food Authority (NFA) is currently equivalent to 1.56 days’ demand, well below the nine days targeted by the agency, due to high domestic buying prices, the Department of Agriculture said.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex C. Estoperez told reporters on Monday that the NFA’s holdings totaled 50,000 metric tons (MT) as of July 27, considerably below the 300,000 MT level required to meet nine days’ demand because private traders are outbidding the NFA.

The national daily consumption rate is equivalent to 679,670 bags or 33,983.5 MT, according to the NFA.

“As of now, it seems that the NFA is not able to buy from farmers because of the high price. The private sector can buy (unmilled rice, or palay) between P21-P23 per kilo (while) the NFA buys at P19,” he said.

Istrikto kasi ang NFA sa kanyang tinatawag na equivalent net weight (The NFA is strict in buying only equivalent net weight) as the P19 buying price is for clean and dry palay, while the private traders buy freshly harvested palay at P21-P23. The NFA cannot compete,” he added.

Under Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, the NFA has been stripped of its power to import rice and has been reduced to maintaining an emergency inventory from domestically-grown rice.

Mr. Estoperez said that the NFA Council will submit a recommendation to the President to reconsider the NFA buying price and measures to build up inventory.

The NFA Council is headed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who is also the Secretary of Agriculture, while NFA Administrator Roderico R. Bioco serves as vice-chairman.

Mr. Estoperez said that Mr. Marcos will meet with various agencies to discuss measures to increase rice stocks, including imports.

“Our inter agency group will update the President tomorrow whether to finalize (import deals), what volume, where to source, on a government-to-government basis,” he said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera