In an effort to meet the 15-day buffer stock, the National Food Authority (NFA) has increased its rice purchasing target to 1.14 million metric tons (MT) from 389,000 MT of palay (unhusked rice).
In a press statement on Saturday, the state-run grains agency said the higher procurement goal was approved during the recent meeting of the NFA Council led by Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
The NFA has stepped up its procurement of unhusked rice following the signing of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law in February this year.
Under RA 11203, the NFA is mandated to maintain the equivalent 15 to 30 days of the country’s rice consumption.
The NFA bought 5.9 million bags of unmilled rice from farmers from January to August 2019, exceeding its target of 5.3 million.
The increase in procurement of unhusked rice is also seen as a solution to help local farmers cope with falling selling prices of the country’s staple.
“The National Food Authority will employ new ways to make it more responsive and effective under the Rice Tariffication Law regime,” it said in a statement.
More palay buying stations installed
To serve more Filipino farmers in several provinces, the NFA said it also set up a total of 558 palay buying stations, 247 more than the previous 311.
Dar said the NFA will focus on buying unmilled rice in Top 10 rice-producing provinces, which include Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur.
The NFA is also targeting buying unhusked rice in Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, as well as in other traditionally major rice-producing areas.
The grains agency said it would also ask local government units (LGUs) to allow the use of their gymnasiums and other appropriate facilities, especially in places where there are no NFA warehouses.
NFA rice to be sold at P23 per kilo
The NFA said it would no longer divest its properties and warehouses, noting that “these could be used for buffer stocking.”
It likewise announced the reduction of its selling price to accredit retailers to PHP23 per kilogram from PHP25 per kilogram.
“Such reduction will give retailers a PHP4 [per kilogram] profit, and the NFA can sell its rice stocks faster,” the NFA said.
The NFA, however, said its rice should still be sold to consumers at PHP27 per kilogram.
It added that it will also now sell its rice at PHP25 per kilogram to other government agencies, like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Corrections, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and LGUs.
NFA awaits conversion of gov’t cash subsidy to rice
Meantime, the NFA remains optimistic that Congress would soon pass a measure that will allow the distribution of rice instead of cash to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“The NFA is awaiting a favorable legislative policy, where the DSWD, instead of cash, will give rice worth PHP600 to beneficiaries under the 4Ps program,” it said.
The plan to give rice instead of cash subsidy to 4Ps beneficiaries was made after farmers’ income have dropped because of the decline in farm-gate price of unhusked rice driven by the implementation of RA 11203.
The Senate on October 2 approved the joint resolution allowing the government to convert its cash assistant to rice for the beneficiaries of 4Ps. A similar measure was approved by the House committee on agriculture and food on October 23.
NFA credit line renewed
The NFA also announced that its credit line with the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines had been renewed.
It added that its revised corporate operating budget for 2019 was also approved by the council, given the amendments to its mandate under the Rice Tariffication Law.
The agency’s organization was also restructured to allow the allotment of the budget for separation package for its retiring employees and the hiring of consultants who will recommend optimal buffer stocks. (PNA)