SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the committee on food and agriculture, said on Monday that the National Food Authority (NFA) will not be abolished with the implementation of the rice tariffication bill.
Ms. Villar said that only the regulatory and importation functions of the NFA will be removed, but the agency will remain, to solely focus on buffer-stocking with its inventory acquired from domestic farmers.
“There is no provision in the rice tariffication on the abolition of the NFA. We think it will limit its role to buffer-stocking, buying from the local farmers, but no abolition,” Ms. Villar told reporters after the Senate budget hearing for NFA on Monday.
“We want to keep the buffer-stocking except that now the NFA is required to buy it from local farmers, not importing,” Ms. Villar said.
According to Ms. Villar, the budget for the NFA should be pegged at around P7 billion, strictly for the maintenance of a buffer stock to stabilize the rice supply and allow it to sell subsidized rice to the poor and to release emergency supplies during periods of calamity.
Ms. Villar added that with the NFA committed to buying domestic rice at P17 per kilo, with an additional P3 incentive, the price of NFA rice might be P33 per kilo, a level seen sufficient to achieve break-even.
“If it is purchased at P17, the break-even price is P30. If it is purchased at P20, the break-even is P33,” Ms. Villar said.
Ms. Villar said that the senate committee will discuss in plenary session on Monday, Dec. 3, the NFA budget for 2019.
“We go plenary on Monday… There is a prediction that the budget will be re-enacted for one month. I don’t think we can finish the budget from Dec. 3 to Dec. 12, two weeks. I think we’ll finish sometime in January so that means the budget will be re-enacted for one month and then we pass the 2019 budget in January,” Ms. Villar said.
The rice tariffication bill is due for submission to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for enactment into law.
“We will forward it to the President as soon as we ratify the bicameral report,” Ms. Villar said.
The bicameral conference committee approved last week the rice tariffication bill which aims to lift quantitative restrictions on importation of rice, and impose a tariff on importers, to be used for the rice competitiveness enhancement fund. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio