Consumer groups suggest ways to deal with NFA rice shortage
MANILA, Philippines – Consumer groups on Wednesday, February 28, suggested ways to deal with problems arising from the fast-depleting buffer stock of National Food Authority (NFA) rice.
NFA Spokesperson Rex Estoperez said they have buffer stock of rice for only 1.7 days, which is equivalent to 1.1 million bags of rice.
The NFA is required to keep 15-day buffer stock at any given time, and 30-day buffer stock by July 1 or the start of the lean months.
The NFA has two ways to replenish its buffer stock: buying from local farmers, and importation of rice.
But the problem is the NFA can't buy from farmers with a buying price of P17 per kilogram, because it is much lower than farmgate prices. Meanwhile, the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice won't arrive until June, or after the harvest season.
With 4 more months to go before the importation arrives, former agrarian reform secretary and Bantay Bigas convenor Rafael Mariano suggested to the NFA a "provisional increase" of the buying price of rice that ranges from P18 to P20.
"P'wedeng alamin muna 'yung competitive price sa farmgate ng palay. Alamin, ano ba, P18.50? P19? Aralin din ng NFA Council kung p'wedeng, kung 'di niya gawing permanent support price 'yan, e 'di provisional increase…. Increase 'yung support price para lang makabili at madagdagan, mabeef-up 'yung food security stock ng NFA," Mariano explained.
(Find out first what the competitive price of rice is at the farmgate. Is it P18.50? P19? The NFA Council should study if a provisional increase is possible.... Increase the support price so we can buy and beef up the NFA's food security stock.)
Estoperez said Mariano's suggestion is not a problem to the NFA, but the NFA Council still has the last say.
"Sinasabi mo, magtaas kami ng presyo. Okay, walang problema sa amin 'yun, p'wede naming paglaruan ang presyo din para makakuha kami ng aming buffer stock, but still 'yung aming policymaking body, siya pa rin 'yung nagsasabi kung ano dapat ang patutunguhan natin," he explained.
(You're saying we should increase our buying price. Okay, that's not a problem for us, we can also consider other prices so that we can replenish our buffer stock, but our policymaking body still decides on our direction.)
The spokesperson said the NFA Council will still have to discuss the P18 buying price that was suggested during the Senate hearing on Tuesday, February 27.
Mariano urged the NFA Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss a possible provisional increase of their buying price.
"'Pag nahawakan na ng NFA ang sapat na volume para maimpluwensyahan ang presyo ng bigas sa merkado, e 'di ibalik mo sa P18," he added.
(Once the NFA has replenished its buffer stock with enough volume to influence the price of rice in the market, then they can bring it back to P18.)
Meanwhile, Laban Konsyumer president Victorio Dimagiba suggested that the government should study setting a suggested retail price (SRP) for regular-milled and well-milled rice.
Estoperez seemed open to the suggestion.
"'Yung sinasabi na SRP based on Consumer Act or Price Act man, that can be done. Siguro lahat ng ahensya na involved dito sa bigas ay dapat mag-coordinate, let's do kung anong magagawa natin, samantalang wala pa tayong replenishment sa ating stocks," he added.
(The SRP based on either the Consumer Act or the Price Act, that can be done. Maybe all agencies involved in the rice industry should coordinate, let's do what we can while our stocks haven't been replenished yet.) – Rappler.com