The National Food Authority plans to import 800,000 metric tons of rice to augment stock for the lean season, administrator Jason Laureano Aquino said Wednesday.
Aquino said in a news briefing NFA’s buffer stocks by the end of June would be three days short of the required 15-day buffer stock.
“That’s why we are pushing for the approval of the 250,000-metric-ton importation because by the end of April we will be short by three days. The importation will be used to beef up the buffer stock of the NFA,” Aquino said.
Aquino said the initial volume would be a part of the 500,000-ton standby volume approved by the NFA Council in 2015.
“That is the volume that we want to be approved for importation to somehow increase the draining supply of the NFA because when calamity strikes, we will not be able to supply the government agencies,” Aquino said, referring to the Social Welfare Department and local government units.
He said on top of the 250,000 metric tons, the NFA would also propose the importation of an additional 550,000 metric tons to meet the 30-day buffer stock requirement for the lean season.
Under the law, the NFA is mandated to maintain a 15-day buffer stock at any given time. For the lean season which starts from July and ends in September, the NFA is required to have a buffer stock good for 30 days.
Aquino said NFA’s current buffer stock at 400,000 metric tons would be good for 13 days. Total buffer stock is estimated at 2.6 million metric tons, including 948,000 metric tons in commercial warehouses and 1.269 million metric tons with the households.
“That [550,000 metric tons] will come later. For 15 days, we need more or less 400,000 metric tons, multiply by two, so more or less 800,000 metric tons so that we can satisfy the 30-day buffer stock. It is better if it’s government to government importation,” he said.
Aquino said the 250,000 metric tons should arrive by April. He said the remaining 550,000 metric tons volume should be bid out after the arrival of the initial volume. The NFA Council has yet to approve the importation.
The NFA chief was earlier accused by the NFA Council of “being liable for making a cash cow out of government-led importations.”
The NFA Council also accused him of defying the council due to his continued refusal to extend the deadline of the arrival of rice imports under the Minimum Access Volume.
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. said the NFA Council received a copy of Aquino’s letter to Vietnam Embassy, informing the latter that the Philippine government would open a state-to-state importation this month [March] for the buffer-stock.