BATAC CITY, Ilocos Norte – – Senator Cynthia Villar, the chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, backed the national government’s plan to import one million metric ton of rice next year due to the recent devastating effect of Typhoon Lando.

Traditionally, Villar said the government imported rice every year because the total production of the farmers were not sufficient to supply the needs of consumers.

“The government is adding the 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice that has already been secured for next year because of the expected reduction of rice production of the farmers this year after Typhoon Lando had destroyed the matured rice crop ready for harvest in the rice granary provinces in Luzon such as Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangsinan and the Ilocos provinces,” Villar said during her recent short visit to the province.

She added that the country needed to import more rice next year to anticipate the predicted ill – effect of El Niño phenomenon that would probably cause the low production of rice due to scarcity of water for irrigation.

Veralow DG. De Vera, Assistant Provincial Manager of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Ilocos Norte, said Friday that the present local allocation of rice supply in the province was sufficient until the lean month period in 2016.

“As of this time, we have 60,000 bags of imported rice stored in our warehouses in Dingras and in Laoag City; and we have another 12,235 bags of local palay in our warehouses plus we are expecting the arrival of another 10,000 bags of imported rice to the province next month,” De Vera said.

He said the current prices of NFA rice in the public markets in the province are Php27.00 per kilogram for the regular – milled rice; and Php32.00 per kilogram for the well-milled rice.

For her part, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos reiterated that the province has highly – sufficient rice supply as the local farmers have been tripling their rice production annually, in which the 33 percent from the production is for local consumption while the 66 % is being exported to Metro Manila and other provinces.

“However, our problem now is we might not be reaching the 66% surplus rice production in the province this year and we will not be able to export rice to Manila because we are expecting the lowering of rice production due to the effect of climate change,” Marcos explained.

Earlier, Socio – Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan clarified that the country was still looking to import more rice to brace for the forecast worst El Niño to hit the country starting October this year until May 2016.

Balisacan assured that the government would not import so much rice to avoid “oversupply”.

Last September this year, the country secured 750,000 MT of rice imports for Php 14.87- billion through a new state-to-state procurement with Thailand and Vietnam.

The arrival of the first 125,000 MT into the country is expected this November while another 125,000 MT is set to be delivered by the end of December. The remaining 500,000 MT is set to arrive in 2016. FREDDIE G. LAZARO/PNA