THE National Food Authority (NFA) said it was not responsible for the rice supply crisis because it was not allocated sufficient funds to increase domestic procurement, and added that its advice was not heeded on the timing of imports.
“All of these present problems — thin buffer stocks, the wrong timing of import arrivals leading to delays in discharging and infestation on board the vessels, the high price of commercial rice in view of low government stocks — are the result of the rejection of NFA’s proposals since 2017 either to increase its palay procurement price for the agency to procure more locally, or to import at the proper time to prevent a depletion of stocks and make the agency effective and efficient in stabilizing the market,” the NFA management committee said in a statement on Monday.
The NFA said earlier that it received P5.1-billion worth of government subsidies from the Department of Budget and Management based on a Notice of Cash Allocation issued on Feb. 24, 2017. Of the total, the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) automatically deducted 10% or P510 million as payment for the previous years’ guarantee fee while P2.5-billion was set aside for its annual contribution to service the P8-billion worth of 10-year Treasury Bonds issued in February 2008.
The agency said that it received net proceeds of only P2.09-billion out of the total subsidy.
In a committee hearing at the House of Representatives on Monday, NFA Administrator Jason L.Y. Aquino said that “the P2.09-billion was used to pay for loans.”
The NFA said it increased the level of supply for the Zamboanga region to 4,000 from 2,000 bags per day, or about 80% of the region’s daily requirement of 5,340 bags. NFA rice is priced at P27 per kilo.
Meanwhile, more than 4,000 NFA employees wore red to protest against lawmakers’ proposals to abolish the agency, including proposals by Senators Cynthia A. Villar and Sherwin T. Gatchalian.
“The problem of rising rice prices and low supply is not the NFA’s fault, but the result of shortsighted decisions and wrong assumptions by people who work in the boardrooms unaware of what is happening in the rural areas, island provinces, highly populated urban areas and remote places across the country,” the NFA employees said in a statement. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio