“Corrupt NFA officials and devious traders will reap the most benefits in the impending rice importation,” rice watch group Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.
“The importation is very dubious as it contradicts Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol’s statement that the country has 96-day buffer stock which is one of the biggest inventories of the country in recent years resulting from a 19.4 million MT harvest last 2017,” Estavillo added.
Estavillo also questioned the move to import citing Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco’s statement that the 325,000 MT of rice under the minimum access volume (MAV) will be arriving towards the end of the month.
“If a huge volume of rice will be available soon, why does the government need to spend billions for importation? Importing another 250,000 MT will no longer be necessary as local rice supply will be available at the time of its arrival, 45 days after which is in time for the harvest season and thus, detrimental to the local rice industry and the livelihood of our farmers,” Estavillo added.
The group denounced NFA’s failure to perform its mandate citing the NFA’s local procurement which is less than 3 percent instead of its mandated 10 percent of local production. The NFA’s share in the country’s total rice stock has been declining, reaching 50 percent or 1.7 million MT in 2011 and 28 percent or 906, 000 MT in 2016. Correspondingly, commercial stock increased from 16 percent or 557, 000 MT to 965, 000 or 30 percent during the same period.
“This means that the shortage of NFA buffer stock is because the rice supply of the country is at the hands of the traders. Worse, the NFA’s P7 billion budget this 2018 for its buffer stocking program which should supposedly be used for local palay procurement, will be used to pay for the imported rice,” Estavillo said.
“The G2P (government to private) importation scheme reinforces the role of NFA as a broker for rice cartels. The private sector gains profit from their control in the supply and market prices of rice while the farmers bear the brunt of liberalized agriculture and consumers suffer from the artificial shortage,” Estavillo added.
The group reiterated its call to ensure the country’s food security by putting an end to dependence on importation and instead increase the procurement of local produce and hike the purchase price of palay.
The rice watch group will be joining the protest later this afternoon in QMart, Quezon City together with other organizations to call for unity in fighting anti-people and anti-poor policies and for the immediate resolution of issues involving NFA rice shortage and the impact of TRAIN in basic commodities. ###