A FARMERS’ ASSOCIATION is urging President Rodrigo R. Duterte to veto the rice tariffication bill as the government will not be able to respond if the price of rice turns volatile with the National Food Authority (NFA) restricted to a role of maintaining a minimum rice inventory.
“The economic thinkers are saying that a free market will ensure that rice prices will go down even without NFA. They could be correct but what if they are wrong? What if importers collude to bring up prices? What if they refuse to import because prices are too high? What if palay prices suddenly go down because of excessive imports? The government will be practically powerless in all these scenarios under the proposed bill,” Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) National Business Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said in a statement.
Mr. Montemayor said that the NFA will most likely stop buying from farmers when it acquires sufficient rice for its buffer stock even if palay prices are declining.
“The tariffication bill should focus only on the removal of volume restrictions on rice imports. This is all what we have to do under our commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The issue of what happens to NFA and the role of government in the rice trade must be addressed separately and only after a comprehensive study and following genuine consultation with stakeholders,” Mr. Montemayor said.
“The spike in prices last year was not because of the import restrictions. Private importers were given a quota of more than 800,000 tons but they did not fully avail of the quota. Nor was it because of the ineptness of the NFA, [but] because it was the representatives of NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), Central Bank and DoF (Department of Finance) in the NFA Council who repeatedly rejected proposals to raise the NFA’s palay buying price or to undertake additional imports in order to replenish the agency’s stocks. These were the very same agencies who blamed NFA for the rice crisis they created and who now want to render the NFA inutile,” Mr. Montemayor added.
Meanwhile, the NFA said that it has procured 88,982 bags of palay or about 144% of its 200,500 bags target for January.
According to NFA, its office in Region XII has already purchased 79,133 bags as of Jan. 23, way above its targeted 2,000 bags for the whole month.
“We are happy to note that more farmers are now selling their harvest to NFA. We attribute this to two things: One is the recent approval by the NFA Council of an additional P3 per kilogram (kg) buffer stocking incentive (BSI) on top of the NFA’s palay support price of P17 per kg plus drying, delivery and cooperative incentives of P0.70 per kg, bringing the maximum buying price to P20.70 per kg. Two is the readiness of NFA personnel and logistics to accept palay deliveries any day of the week and even on weekends when necessary,” NFA Officer-in-Charge Administrator Tomas R. Escarez said in a statement. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio