The decision to increase the import volume came on the heels of Typhoon ‘‘Ompong,’’ which caused damage to crops and livestock by as much as P26.7 billion, well above initial forecasts.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said this was the second worst damage done by a typhoon, next to ‘‘Yolanda’’ in 2013, which destroyed P35 billion worth of crops and livestock.
Ompong destroyed P14.5 billion in rice crops, P8.1 billion in corn, P3.4 million in high-value crops, P79 million in fruit trees, P45 million in livestock, P2 million in fisheries, and P528 million in irrigation facilities, machinery, and other equipment.
Piñol said the department had a quick reaction fund of P600 million, crop insurance of P1.6 billion and an emergency loan program of P880 million, but this would not be enough to cover the P26.7 billion in damage.
The rice imports will replenish the almost depleted stocks of government rice that stood at two days inventory.
“All these [imports] will be at 25 percent broken. We put a stop to the importation of 5 percent broken. This is where problems arise. Traders tend to hoard and sell fancy rice when prices go up,” said Agriculture secretary Manny Pinol in a briefing Monday in Quezon City.
He told the National Food Authority Council to keep rice imports at 25 percent broken and warned traders who would import any other kind of rice.
“The message we want to get across to those traders holding on to their inventory is for them to release their stocks now,” he added.
In addition, the NFA board has also approved the standby importation of 1 million MT rice for arrival in 2019.
The Department will submit the proposed importation volume to the President Sept. 25.
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee R. Marcos, meanwhile, suggested that the National Food Authority be authorized to buy milled rice from traders at prevailing market prices or buy palay from farmers at prices matching the rice traders’ buying rate.
Rice traders usually buy at a higher rate than the NFA.
“The TRAIN Law has a catch-all provision which could serve as legal basis for a rice buying program by the NFA using incremental proceeds from TRAIN Law revenues. This provision will address costs,” Marcos said, referring to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law.
She said when the poor are assured of a stable supply of NFA rice, they will choose it over commercial rice, which will lead to lower prices all around.
Also on Monday, the Bureau of Customs filed five criminal cases against importers and customs brokers who were supposedly involved in smuggled shipments cumulatively valued at more than P20 million.
Among those charged were officers of Malaya Multi-Purpose Cooperative for large-scale agricultural smuggling of four containers of onions worth P2.5 million.
“Their importation consisted of four containers of onions which were concealed among cartons of apples and pears,” the BoC said in a statement.
READ: Traders to import more rice
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