The country’s grains agency has assured local farmers that the government’s planned importation of rice would not adversely affect their livelihood but instead help the nation as it grapples with the new coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Administrator Judy Carol Dansal of the National Food Authority (NFA) said the rice importation “shall be properly timed so that stocks would arrive before the onset of the traditional lean months of July to September” to ensure that there would be adequate supply of the staple should there be need for additional emergency relief.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the government had agreed to import 300,000 metric tons of rice through the state-owned Philippine International Trading Corp. if there would be any shortfall, which was not well-received by industry groups who feared a supply glut.
In particular, the Federation of Free Farmers said this might bring down palay prices again, just when local producers were beginning to recover from a slump in prices that lasted for more than a year.
“[The importation] is to ensure that the government will have continuous supply of the staple to respond to any need for emergency relief as the lean months are also normally beset with natural calamities,” Dansal said.
Dar also noted in a phone interview with the Inquirer that the proposal to import was part of the agency’s contingency plan and stressed that there would be more focus on boosting local production through the Department of Agriculture’s new rice resiliency program with a funding of P8.5 billion.
Dansal explained that it usually took at least two months for imported rice to arrive in the country, which should give NFA enough lead time to position the stocks to deficit island-provinces and calamity-vulnerable areas across the country prior to the lean season.
The NFA has also been actively procuring palay across the country as farmers harvest their summer crop. The agency said it had 440 buying stations nationwide that were open even during weekends and holidays.
As of March 31, the NFA has bought 2.3 million bags of palay, or 15 percent of its annual target of 15.4 million bags.
Between April and May, the agency aims to buy four million bags of palay in areas where harvest is peaking such as Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Western Visayas and in Western, Northern and Central Mindanao.
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