NFA pushed to become sole PH rice importer

MANILA, Philippines - Farmers groups and the government are pushing for the National Food Authority (NFA) to become the sole importer of ordinary rice in the Philippines to combat smuggling. 

This was one of the key provisions in the Covenant of the Multi-Sectoral Groups of the Rice Industry signed by the private and public sectors on Friday, February 22. Prior to the agreement, farmer groups were allowed to import rice as part of the private sector allocation. 

"Whereas, NFA shall be authorized to be the sole importer of rice and allow the farmer groups/associations/cooperatives to distribute imported rice under the Institutionalized Farmers as Distributors (IFAD) program of the NFA," the covenant stated. 

In a statement, the Agriculture Department said the groups called on President Benigno Aquino III to issue a public declaration in support of the Anti-Smuggling Drive and grant the Department of Agriculture (DA) access to the Customs area where reported alleged smuggled rice are discharged or stored. 

The major stakeholders of the rice industry also asked more support for the DA Task Force on Anti-Rice Smuggling by issuing directives to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard.

"As an added safety net and as a mid-term solution to smuggling, rice millers and processors agreed to have their brand name/s registered with NFA so that smuggled rice can easily be tracked down and identification of accountabilities," the DA said. 

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag witnessed the signing of the “Covenant of the Multi-Sectoral Groups of the Rice Industry” led by Rep. Joseph Gilbert Violago of the 2nd District of Nueva Ecija.

The country intends to produce 20.4 million metric tons of palay in 2013 after producing 18.03 million MT in 2012. In 2013, the agency is allotting P10.9 billion to procure 615,985 MT palay from farmers.

The NFA buys clean and dry palay at P17 per kilogram (kg) with additional incentives such as graduated delivery fee up to a maximum P0.50/kg; drying incentive fee of P0.20/kg; and CDIF of P0.30/kg.

The agency is now reviewing its policies on grains standardization, accreditation, and transport to help the rice sector facilitate its transactions with the government. - Cai Ordinario/