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Monday, June 17, 2024

‘Let NFA sell cheaper rice in market’

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A party-list lawmaker has reiterated his call to restore the National Food Authority’s (NFA) function to buy palay from local farmers then sell it at a lower price in the local market for as low as P37 per kilo.

Rep. Wilbert Lee of AGRI party-list group said if the NFA were allowed to buy local palay and sell it to the public, it might result in P37 to P40 per kilo in the market, from the current P51 to P57 per kilo.

“Sa pag-amyenda ng RTL [Rice Tarrification Law], dapat ibalik na ang mandato ng NFA na pagbili ng palay sa lokal na mga magsasaka, hindi lang para siguruhin ang kita ng ating local food producers, kundi para mapababa rin ang presyo ng bigas (With the RTL amendment, the mandate of the NFA to buy rice from local farmers should be restored, not only to ensure the income of our local food producers, but also to lower the price of rice) ,” the Bicolano lawmaker said.

“Dapat may choice ang consumers, hindi yung napipilitan silang bumili ng mahal na bigas na napatungan na ng mga traders ang presyo. Kung maibabalik ang mandatong ito sa NFA, mapoprotektahan ang kabuhayan ng ating mga magsasaka at ma-e-engganyo silang pataasin ang produksyon. Mas makakamura sa NFA rice ang marami nating kababayan, kung saan ang matitipid na budget ay pwede nang magamit sa ibang pangangailangan, tulad sa panahon ng pagkakasakit (Consumers should have a choice. They should not be forced to buy expensive rice whose price has already been inflated by traders. If this mandate is restored to the NFA, the livelihoods of our farmers will be protected and they will be encouraged to increase production. Many of our people will find NFA rice cheaper, where the saved budget can be used for other needs, such as during illness) ,” he added.

The enactment of the RTL in 2019 prohibited the NFA from directly selling rice stocks to the market and limited its function to storing buffer stocks for calamities.

During a recent briefing at the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, the Department of Agriculture (DA) expressed its commitment to study the proposal to restore the NFA power to sell cheaper rice to the public.

The DA likewise proposed reallocation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as follows: 55 percent from 50 percent for farm machinery and equipment, retain 30 percent for Rice Seed Development, and five percent new allotment for the Soil Health Improvement, among others.

Lee, who filed House Resolution 1636 to scrutinize the impact of RCEF, welcomed these proposed amendments, underscoring that the increased allocation for farm machinery and equipment to be implemented by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) will greatly boost the productivity of local rice farmers.

While Lee recognizes the high utilization rate of the RCEF Mechanization Program, he pointed out that there must be a proactive effort in supporting potential beneficiaries who cannot comply with the requirements due to lack of resources such as the capacity to construct warehouses.

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