ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Farmers, NGOs fear abandonment of NFA rice subsidy program
PHILIPPINES: Farmer and civil society groups are alarmed that the National Food Authority might abandon the rice subsidy program and leave the procurement and importation of rice to the private sector.
In a statement released Monday, Rice Watch and Action Network convenor Aurora Regalado said the group is worried over Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan's plan to allow the private sector to take over local procurement and the importation of rice "as their solution to the problems besetting the local rice industry."
"Letting the private traders to [sic] import rice again when NFA and Customs reforms have not been fully implemented is like allowing smugglers to go back to their heydays once again,” Regalado said.
For her part, Trinidad Domingo, honorary chairperson of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan, explained that NFA's palay procurement is necessary for local farmers especially that the country is expecting to open up competition to the international market in 2017.
"The local rice industry has to fully develop primarily with the interest of rice farmers above all to ensure it will be a sustained and inclusive growth as this administration promised to people,” said Omi Royandoyan, executive director of Centrosaka, Inc. (CSI).
The groups also urged Pangilinan to follow the Food Self-Sufficiency Program (FSSP) after the former senator announced that a review of the NFA's rice subsidy program is expected to start this month.
Under the FSSP, the government, through the NFA, is supposed to increase palay procurement from local farmers.
Last month, rice traders claimed losses as the NFA moved to bring more subsidized rice into the market to keep prices stable.
Over the weekend, NFA and the police raided warehouses suspected of being used to hoard rice. Authorities found thousands of sacks of NFA rice and a milling machine believed to have been used to polish NFA rice for sale as commercial rice. — Rouchelle R. Dinglasan/JDS, GMA News
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