THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will seek to effectively double the National Food Authority’s (NFA) procurement budget for palay, or unmilled rice, to about P20 billion.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the strategy involves accelerating the turnover of funds used to buy palay at P19 per kilo by making quick sales and rapidly returning the proceeds to the procurement budget.

“We want to intensify this scheme of rolling over NFA’s limited funds so we can achieve a ‘double-multiplier’ effect. So, from its P10-billion procurement fund this year, it could buy P20 billion worth of palay,” he added.

During a recent visit to Nueva Ecija, Mr. Dar said all of NFA’s resources will be maximized to boost procurement.

“NFA is continuing to buy palay at P19 per kilogram at 14% moisture content. It also offers to buy palay right at the barangay,” Mr. Dar said.

NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal said the agency will still buy palay even if it does not meet the 14% moisture content requirement, adding that the buying price will be adjusted using the current NFA equivalent net weight factor.

Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio M. Umali said he has set aside P2 billion for direct purchases of palay from the province’s farmers during the harvest season.

Nueva Ecija had the top palay harvest in 2019 of 1.95 million metric tons (MT), according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The province’s palay output accounted for 10.4% of the country’s total yield of 18.81 million MT in 2019.

The PSA reported that the average farmgate price of palay fell 2.2% week on week to P17.64 per kilogram during the first week of September, below the NFA’s support price. The NFA is the buyer of last resort for farmers if they cannot obtain favorable prices from private traders, but the agency does not have enough funds or storage to buy the entire harvest. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave