THE National Food Authority (NFA) said Tuesday that it procured 1,012,172 bags of palay from farmers in the first 11 months of the year, with purchasing boosted by incentives to farmers.
According to NFA, 92% of the procurement was carried out after the agency applied a P3 “buffer stocking incentive” (BSI) payment on top of the P17 per kilo buying price for palay.
“This means that given the right price, the NFA will be able to buy more from our farmers,” Tomas R. Escarez, NFA Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Administrator for Finance and Administration, said in a statement.
“With the additional P3/kg incentive, we were able to entice more farmers to sell their harvest to us. At a time when private traders were buying at P20.28, our farmers decided to sell to us instead,” Mr. Escarez added.
Under the proposed rice tariffication law, the private sector will be mainly in charge of rice importation, while the NFA will focus on buying domestic produce.
Senator Cynthia A. Villar, who chairs her chamber’s committee on food and agriculture, said that given the additional P3 incentive, the NFA should sell rice at P33 to achieve break even.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol has announced that private entities can start preparing for importation provided they have the requirements, without waiting for the rice tariffication bill to be passed.
Mr. Escarez said that consumers were able to save P6.22 billion from purchasing subsidized rice in the 11 months to November, after over 10.36 million bags of NFA rice were distributed in those months.
He said that a consumer saves P12 by buying NFA rice at P27 per kilo, compared with the suggested retail price (SRP) of P39 for the cheapest variety of imported well-milled rice.
Meanwhile, Mr. Piñol said that he is not certain about the future of the SRP regime for rice once the rice tariffication law takes effect.
Mr. Piñol told reporters: “We have instituted measures to ensure stable prices. Rice, for example. My worry with the implementation of the tariffication, bordering on liberalization, is what will happen to our SRP program.”
Mr. Piñol added: “Based on my understanding, the regulatory powers of NFA will be removed. I don’t know who will supervise the SRP program. I don’t know if there will still be P27 or P32 government-subsidized rice in the market. This is something I would have to clarify today.”
Mr. Piñol also said that he has instructed the NFA to investigate the proliferation of special rice, whose prices are less regulated.
“I asked NFA to check. Suddenly there is a lot of special rice in the market because the traders know it is not covered by SRP. We will check on this. I will ask our grains experts,” Mr. Piñol said.
Thirty companies have applied to import 274,476 metric tons (MT) of rice, as of Dec. 3, according to the NFA website. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio