ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
NFA rice won’t be available by April or May, says administrator
National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino on Tuesday admitted that if there will be no more importations, rice produced by the agency will no longer be available in the market by April or May this year.
Aquino made the remark in a House Committee on Agriculture and Food inquiry into the state of rice supply in the country.
"About 31-32 days mauubos na 'yung NFA rice, so [in] April, May wala na po bigas ang NFA," he said.
The House panel conducted the hearing after NFA announced that it has decided to temporarily discontinue issuing NFA rice to accredited retailers due to low supply.
According to Aquino, as early as November 2017, there was already a discussion on the request of the NFA to import additional 350,000 metric tons of rice.
At the time, the buffer stock was only good for six days, after 250,000 metric tons of imported rice arrived in October 2017.
The approval of the request, however, was deferred by the NFA Council.
In December 2017, when the buffer stock was only good for four days, the NFA Council approved the standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons of rice, but subject to their assessment.
In January 2018, when buffer stock was good for three days, the discussion on the request to import additional 350,000 metric tons of rice was included for approval in the agenda of the NFA Council's meeting, but it was deferred.
It was also at this time that President Rodrigo Duterte approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice as requested by the NFA.
Following Duterte's directive, the NFA Council this month approved the activation of the stand-by authority for the importation of the 250,000 metric tons of rice, but it is set for arrival in June 2018.
NEDA Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla, who is part of the NFA Council, said they did not approve the request for importation yet as harvest season was already coming at that time.
“The harvest season is already coming and we did not want the importation come in during the harvest season," she said.
Aquino, however, insisted that the only solution to increase rice buffer stock is through "immediate importation."
The NFA chief also revealed during the hearing that the buffer stock for NFA rice as of the moment is only 1.7 days.
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