MANILA — Following reports that the National Food Authority (NFA) has run out of cheap rice to sell, Senator Nancy Binay on Wednesday urged the NFA Council to reconsider the proposal allowing the grain agency to increase its buying price for palay from local farmers in order to immediately boost its rice reserve.
“Napipilitan pong bumili ng mas mahal na bigas ang ating mga kababayan dahil walang NFA rice na mabili sa mga palengke, kaya nananawagan po ako sa NFA Council na payagan na ang pagbili ng palay sa mas mataas na presyo upang ma-replenish ang stock nito ng bigas (Our countrymen are forced to buy more expensive rice because there is no NFA rice to buy in the markets. So I’m calling on the NFA Council to allow the purchase of rice at a higher price to replenish its stock),” Binay said.
During the last Senate hearing on the issue of NFA rice last March 16, it was proposed that the NFA Council grant an additional peso to the existing NFA buying price.
However, the inter-agency body objected to the proposal, saying it would result to about PHP800 million in additional spending with no assurance that farmers would sell their palay to the NFA due to the higher buying price of rice traders.
The NFA at present buys palay from local farmers at PHP17 a kilogram, while middlemen and traders offer between PHP19 to PHP21 per kilo at farm gate prices.
But during the same hearing, Binay said that the proposed NFA buying price of PHP18 per kilo is already “competitive.”
“Mahina ang bargaining position at hindi talaga makakapag-offer ang NFA ng magandang presyo sa ating local farmers kung ang kaya lamang nilang presyo ay PHP17 sa bawat kilo ng palay (Its bargaining position is weak that’s why the NFA cannot offer a good price to our local farmers. It can only afford PHP17 per kilo of palay),” she said.
She said that once the NFA be allowed to buy palay at PHP18/kilo, local farmers would be more than willing to sell their harvests to the government.
“Kung makakayang tapatan ng NFA ang presyo sa farm gate, mas matutulungan pa natin ang mas maraming local farmers at mami-maintain natin ang required 30-day buffer stock (If the NFA could match the offer at the farm gate price, it can help many of the our local farmers and we can maintain the required 30-day buffer stock),” she said.
“So I think it would be prudent for the NFA Council to immediately grant the needed adjustment,” Binay said.
Binay was reacting to news reports regarding the announcement of the Grain Retailers Confederation of the Philippines that there is no more supply of NFA rice in markets in Metro Manila as well as in the regions of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon (Calamba, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).
If the reports are true, this will mark the first time since 1972 that the government has run out of subsidized rice to sell.
The NFA sells regular-milled rice at PHP27/kg and PHP32/kg for the well-milled variety.
On the other hand, comparable commercial rice varieties sell between PHP36/kg to PHP41/kg and even higher. (PR)