NFA still buying palay; stocks good for 14 days

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THE National Food Authority (NFA) said it is still buying palay, or unmilled rice, and could see its procurement budget doubled soon in response to the enhanced community quarantine implemented in Luzon.

It said the current rice inventory is sufficient for Metro Manila, amid fears the supply will be disrupted by movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The NFA had prepositioned rice stocks for Metro Manila’s projected consumption ahead of the quarantine.

NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal said the agency’s current rice inventory is 481,800 metric tons (MT), equivalent to a 14-day supply for the Philippines. Other repositories of rice are households and commercial traders.

The rice inventory includes stocks bought from farmers during the last quarter of 2019.

She added that in January and February, NFA bought 86,711 MT of palay from individual farmers, cooperatives, and associations.

“We continue to buy palay from farmers for buffer stocking. For the entire year, NFA targets to buy 15.44 million bags, using its regular P7 billion budget,” Ms. Dansal said.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar is seeking to augment the NFA’s palay procurement to increase rice stocks.

“We are proposing to augment the NFA’s palay procurement fund by another P7 billion,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar has said Metro Manila has enough rice, adding that the Philippines has the equivalent of a 75 day-supply, or 2.661 million MT, including rice held by commercial traders, households, and government agencies.

NFA rice is sold at P25 per kilogram to accredited retailers, government agencies, and local government units.

Meanwhile, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) urged local government units (LGUs) to purchase produce directly from farmers as farmgate prices for agricultural products have dropped below the cost of production due to the farmers’ lack of access to locked-down markets.

In a statement, SINAG Chairman Rosendo O. So said mayors and governors can help farmers by buying directly from them.

“Aside from helping farmers, they can ensure that nutritious food will be given to their frontliners and to the constituents of their respective localities,” Mr. So said.

According to SINAG, the farmgate price for chicken is now at around P40-P50 per kilogram, against the production cost of P70-P75.

The group also said backyard vegetable farmers in Benguet and Nueva Ecija have not been able to deliver their produce due to lack of transportation.

“There is much production at this time in our piggeries, chicken, aquaculture and vegetable farms. But if farmers stop producing due to bankruptcy, what will happen to all of us?” Mr. So said.

SINAG also urged foundations providing food for frontliners to buy directly from farmers, adding that many health workers will appreciate it more if the food they receive comes from the farmers themselves.

“Farmers and all food producers at the farm level need to continuously produce food for us, unhampered and unrestricted. But we must also support them so they continue farming,” Mr. So said.

In a statement, Magsasaka Party-List representative Argel Joseph T. Cabatbat also called for LGUs to include farmers’ produce in the relief packs given to their constituents.

He added that LGUs should buy from farmers to keep food from spoiling because it cannot be transported to market. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave