Piñol eyes NFA as trading arm for PH farmers, fishers

Farmers thresher rice harvests in Barangay Camiling, Balaoan, La Union, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Photo by JUN ELIAS


MANILA — Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is eyeing the National Food Authority (NFA) as a trading arm for Philippine farmers and fishers to sell their produce abroad.

Piñol said the NFA could do this as the food agency is the only recognized state trading agency of the Philippines by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade.

“NFA shouldn’t be a rice agency only,” Piñol stressed.

He said India and Vietnam have agencies internationally promoting their respective agri-fisheries’ produce.

He said such trading arms enable those countries’ farmers and fishers to focus on agricultural and fisheries production.

The Secretary said he would present the idea–as well as the government’s plan to form a clearinghouse for the NFA, which he disclosed Thursday–to the NFA Council, the food agency’s policy-making body.

Piñol added though that local farmers and fishers do not have the advantage that countries like India and Vietnam enjoy, with their respecting food trading arms to the international market.

Philippine farmers and fishers, he lamented, still have to organize themselves first to seek buyers abroad.

Such function could be done by the NFA for them, with its present status under the WTO, he added.

“The NFA can even earn more revenues in the process,” he said.

Created as the National Grains Authority in 1972, the NFA is the government agency tasked with providing adequate supply of affordable rice and corn in the country while ensuring reasonable returns for Filipino farmers.

The agency was reverted to the supervision of the Department of Agriculture (DA) early this week after the agency suffered from dwindling rice stocks for distribution nationwide.

Coconut products, sugar, fruits and vegetables, and other agro-based products are among the country’s exports.

Receipts for the Philippines’ January-February 2018 agro-based exports totaled about USD581 million, latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

Together with the NFA, also reverted to the DA management this week were the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.

Piñol welcomed the move at once and ordered new measures for the agencies to implement right away, such as 60 days’ buffer stock for NFA, focus on coconut insect infestation in Mindanao for PCA, and regulation of incoming chemicals for pesticides for FPA.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA), however, was not reverted to the DA, as the Senate is still looking at whether or not NIA would retain its status as a government-owned and controlled corporation, Piñol said.

In 2014, Executive Order 165 transferred NFA, PCA, FPA, and NIA from being DA-attached agencies to the Office of the President, citing the need to enhance and coordinate their respective efforts.

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