THE National Food Authority (NFA) said its total procurement of palay, or unmilled rice, breached the 4-million bag mark in the year to date, when it lost its importing mandate and reorganized to focus on domestic procurement.

In a statement Thursday, the NFA said that it has procured a total of 4.025 million bags, up 5,636% year-on-year. As of May 20, the total for the month was 954,142 bags.

The San Jose, Occidental Mindoro NFA buying station acquired the most palay for the NFA during the year to date, accounting for 541,865 bags, followed by the Nueva Ecija office with 431,792; Isabela with 426,827; Bulacan with 297,506; Tarlac with 205,144; Northwestern Cagayan-Apayao (Allacapan) with 195,500; Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro with 169,125; North Cotabato with 167,735; Cagayan Province with 135,440; and Sultan Kudarat with 99,492.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations 9IRR) of the Rice Tariffication Law require the NFA to focus on domestic procurement to maintain a buffer stock for calamities and emergencies. Total bags needed to maintain the buffer stock is 15-30 million, though the NFA still has leftover inventory from its importing operations.

“More farmers are selling to NFA because we have increased our effective buying price, with the additional P3.00 per kilogram Buffer Stocking Incentive (BSI) starting last October 2018, in addition to the previous P0.20/kg drying, P0.20/kg delivery, and P0.30/kg Cooperative Development Incentive Fee. This increased the agency’s maximum buying price for palay from P17.40/kg for individual farmers and P17.70 for members of farmer cooperatives/organizations to P20.40/kg and P20.70 per kg, respectively,” Tomas R. Escarez, officer-in-charge administrator of the NFA said in a statement.

The average farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, rose during the first week of May by 0.3% to P18.45 per kilogram (kg), the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

The NFA is currently undergoing restructuring as part of the law. The new structure has been approved, but Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have brought up the possibility of further job losses.

At least 839 employees will be affected which are mainly in the regulatory and enforcement positions. Severance pay for the affected employees has yet to be determined by the Governance Commission for GOCCS (GCG) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).