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Monday, June 17, 2024

Group: NFA stocks down to 2 days

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The rapid depletion of the National Food Agency’s rice buffer stocks, now reportedly at less than two days of national consumption, has caused alarm, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said Thursday.

FFF national manager Raul Montemayor said they urged a swift resolution to the ongoing investigations on the rice mismanagement issues at the NFA to ensure transparency and allow the agency to fulfill its crucial role in national food security.

With harvests underway, the FFF emphasized the urgency for the NFA to resume normal operations and replenish its reserves through “palay” (unmilled rice) procurement.

However, ongoing investigations by the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Ombudsman, coupled with the suspension of several top NFA officials and the potential closure of warehouses pending investigation results, are hindering the agency’s ability to function effectively, the federation said.

The group alleged potential violations of regulations and raised concerns about preferential treatment for certain buyers.

Montemayor said some rice stocks might have been milled recently but then sold as “aged” to meet disposal criteria.

He hinted that sales might have been backdated to qualify for specific regulations on “ageing stocks”.

Citing data discrepancies between rice purchased and sold within short timeframes, Montemayor raised doubts about the legitimacy of these transactions.

The FFF alleged that millions of sacks of affordable rice, meant for emergencies and stabilizing prices, were sold directly to private traders in 2021 and 2022 without undergoing bidding.

FFF gathered that in 2021 alone, the NFA sold nearly 5.6 million bags of rice and 4 million in 2022 “supposedly ageing stocks” to private buyers.

While the Rice Tariffication Law allows the NFA to dispose of aging stocks to private buyers under specific conditions, the FFF questions the rapid pace of these sales and the reported selling price of P25 per kilo.

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