Sen. Villar renews call on NFA to step up local rice buying

CALBAYOG CITY, Samar – Senator Cynthia Villar reiterated her call to the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy rice from local farmers to curb rice smuggling.

Villar, chairman of the Senate committee on food and agriculture, said the grains agency should explore buying rice produce in areas outside Central Luzon.

“NFA said that it’s hard for them to buy palay (unhusked rice) at PHP17 per kilogram because they probably are bargaining for a lower price in Central Luzon, which is nearer to Manila.  If you go to other rice-producing provinces such as Mindoro, Antique, Camarines Sur, North Cotabato, and other areas, rice is much cheaper in those places,” she said.

The senator has been receiving complaints from farmers about selling their produce to NFA as they noted the high deduction based on moisture content.

“NFA should not allow that farmers to be exploited by traders. NFA should buy the farmers’ rice even with its high moisture content. Mill it and make sure that the buffer stock is enough to sustain the country’s needs. This is the primary mandate of the agency,” Villar said.

She pointed out that this move will not only help farmers, but consumers as well since there would be enough supply of cheaper rice.

Villar also blamed the NFA for the rising prices of staple and alleged rice shortage in some parts of Mindanao.

Prices of rice in Mindanao have increased to as high as PHP80 per kilogram while in poor areas like in Eastern Visayas, the price surged to PHP60 per kilogram.

“NFA should be true to its mandate, focus on it, and do its job, to avoid what is happening now,” Villar stressed.

The senator graced this city’s fiesta celebration last Saturday as guest of honor.

In a press briefing, she rejected the proposal of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to legalize the entry of smuggled rice in the country to solve the rice crisis.

“The Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 is a very strong legislation and we cannot legalize smuggling. That’s against the law. We will be accused of disobeying the law unless we amend it in the Congress,” she said.

Ealier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte himself  likewise thumbed down the proposal of the Agriculture chief, saying legalizing rice smuggling would be “destructive to the economy” and promote disorder in the country. Lizbeth Ann Abella/