THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it initially estimates demand for subsidized P29 rice at 69,000 metric tons (MT) per month, though this total is expected to fluctuate depending on consumer response.

“Of course it will change, it not exact. It will really depend on how many will avail of the program. We will not force them to buy,” Agriculture Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Arnel V. de Mesa told reporters on Thursday.

The National Food Authority (NFA) council on Wednesday approved the sale of ageing rice stocks to individuals classified as poor or otherwise vulnerable.

“We want to reach to as many members of our vulnerable sectors. We will be needing about 69,000 MT of rice every month,” he added.

The DA proposed to import about 363,697 MT to replace the ageing stocks that will be disposed of under the “Bigas 29” program.

“The priority is still to use the NFA stocks, because we don’t have the clearance to import yet,” Mr. De Mesa said.

The DA’s plan is estimated to cost the government between P1.39 billion and P1.53 billion per month.

Beneficiaries of the rice subsidy program are estimated at more than 34 million vulnerable individuals, which include persons with disabilities, solo parents, and senior citizens, apart from those below the poverty line. Each beneficiary is entitled to purchase about 10 kilograms per month. — Adrian H. Halili