By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The National Food Authority (NFA) is set to propose to the NFA Council additional importation of 1 million metric ton s of rice to fill its buffer stocks until the early part of next year.
An NFA official said the agency has done drafting the proposal to import additional 500,000 MT of rice for this year, and another 500,000 MT of rice in the first few months of 2019.
According to the NFA official, the proposal will soon be submitted to interagency Food Security Committee (FSC) on Rice before it will be presented to NFA Council, which is the highest policy-making body of the grains agency.
“We will propose this asap [as soon as possible]. We will refer it to FSC. We are ready even for our proposal for next year,” the source, who refused to be named, said.
But NFA Administrator Jason Aquino confirmed the plan. He said the rationale for this move is to avoid the same situation this year when the agency completely ran out of stocks, the first time it happened in many years.
The importation got delayed several times since the economic managers won’t give it a go, citing abundance in supply.
“We don’t want this to happen again so we are planning [to propose this] as soon as possible. Ideally, the importation will be timed for December arrival,” Aquino told reporters Thursday.
He said the proposal should be submitted on or before October.
As for the mode of importation, he said he prefers it to be done through a government-to-government bidding “for faster transaction.”
The source explained that if the NFA won’t be allowed to import additional 500,000 MT this year, the agency’s inventory would only last for 2 to 3 days by the end of December.
If it did get the approval, NFA will have a buffer stock of 18 to 20 days, which would be considered “safe”.
Under the law, NFA is required to have at least 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30-day buffer stock during lean season, which starts in July and ends in September.
The NFA Council meeting happens every third week of the month but the source said the agency will have to face FSC first.
Chaired by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), FSC members include NFA, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Department of Agriculture (DA), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and group of farmers.
In a separate interview, Mercedita Sombilla, NEDA Director of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environment Staff, said she doesn’t see the need for another importation for this year.
“We have so much supply with MAV also coming in,” Sombilla said.
If the importation of additional 500,000 MT this year will be approved and will indeed be scheduled for arrival in December, the amount of rice the country will be importing for this year alone would already rise to as much as 2.4 million MT.
This includes the 500,000 MT of rice imported through the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) scheme of the World Trade Organization in February, which was followed by another 250,000 MT for its second tranche; 500,000 MT of rice imported through the NFA-led government-to-government and government-to-private bidding; and the first phase of the latest MAV importation, which stood around 653,000 MT.
In April, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the Philippines may only import as much as 1.4 million MT this year.
The output for the country’s main staple is also seen to reach record levels this year, with bulk of the rice production expected over the next six months.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that for the second half of this year, rice output will reach “record levels” as typhoon allows rainfed areas to replant. In 2017, the country’s total rice output ended at a record level of 19.26 million metric tons (MT).