THE procurement of palay, or unmilled rice, amounted to more than 5.4 million bags in the first half, exceeding the target by 16%, the National Food Authority said in a statement, as the agency concluded its first half-year focused only on domestic rice procurement.

“With a very high rate of procurement during the previous months, we were able to raise the NFA’s total palay procurement for the first half of 2019 to 5.412 million bags. In total, our palay procurement is 16% higher than our 4.649 million target during the first six months this year,” NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal said in the statement Thursday.

The Rice Tariffication Law opened up rice imports to private firms, leaving the NFA to concentrate on procuring palay from domestic farmers to build its emergency reserves. It offers various incentives to make selling to the NFA attractive relative to prices offered by private rice traders.

Ms. Dansal also noted that the agency was able to front-load its procurement before the onset of the lean months. In June procurement totaled 626,100 bags, beating the target by 140%.

“It is very favorable because the agency is now preparing for the lean months, from July to early September, and for calamities that may hit the country during the rainy season. The rice import liberalization law still requires us to ensure at least 15-30 days of buffer stock and since the agency can no longer source its stock from imports, it is fortunate that our agency is performing well in procuring palay from our own farmers and that we were able to meet our mandated level of buffer stock,” she said.

The Rice Tariffication Act, or Republic Act 1120, opened up the import market to private entities while charging tariffs on their shipments. Imports used to be a key part of the NFA’s operations.

In October, the agency increased its buying price to P20.40 per kilogram (/kg) for individual farmers and P20.70/kg for members of farmer cooperatives or organizations, from P17.40/kg and P17.70/kg previously.

It has also added a P3.00/kg buffer stock incentive on top of the P0.20/kg drying, P0.20/kg delivery, and P0.30/kg Cooperative Development Incentive Fee.

Ms. Dansal said she has instructed NFA field offices to start milling palay in preparation for the lean months to ensure adequate supplies ready for release anytime.

“We have to efficiently manage our stocks, both to ensure our financial stability, and to see to it that by the time the main crop harvest starts in September until December, we will be ready again to serve our clients. We must be able to sustain our procurement operations with sufficient logistics, especially warehouse space to store the stock that we will be continuously procuring from our farmers,” she said.

She also noted that NFA rice is still being distributed at P27 per kilogram through accredited retailers. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang