THE national government has set aside P7 billion of its P3.767-trillion budget for 2018 to enable the National Food Authority to procure more unhusked rice or palay directly from local farmers for stockpiling.
“The fresh subsidy will allow the NFA to buy an extra 388,889 metric tons of palay from local growers at P18 per kilo. The supply will then form part of the country’s Strategic Rice Reserve,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, a member of the House appropriations committee.
The new funding is in accordance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for the NFA to provide local rice farmers stronger buying support.
NFA is mandated to keep a Strategic Rice Reserve equal to at least 15 days of national consumption at any given time, and equal to at least 30 days consumption by the start of the lean season on July 1 of every year.
After serving its purpose as stockpile, the NFA then sells the rice to accredited outlets at P30 per kilo to help keep retail prices down and support consumers, especially low-income households.
Pimentel said next year, NFA intends to procure up to 1.2 MTs of palay from local planters and distribute up to 1.35 MTs of rice.
Based on documents submitted to Congress, NFA also indicated it may import another 580,050 MTs of rice next year, if needed.
“Under the law, obtaining additional rice supplies from abroad is always an option, in case of calamities, fortuitous events, or shortfall in local production,” Pimentel said.
“But we would really prefer that the NFA buys as much palay as possible from local farmers, who are under tremendous pressure owing to the flood of rice supplies from abroad due to trade liberalization as well as outright smuggling,” Pimentel added.
Rice importations require the approval of Malacañang upon the recommendation of the NFA Council.
NFA data shows that only 31 of the country’s 81 provinces are actually producing more rice than they are consuming.
In Luzon, the “rice surplus” provinces are Abra, Ifugao, Kalinga, IIocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan and Camarines Sur.
In the Visayas, the surplus provinces are Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, Biliran and Leyte while in Mindanao, these include Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Agusan del Sur and Maguindanao.