Buy more rice from farmers to secure supply – Anakpawis to NFA

Bantay Bigas and farmers protest against liberalizationn of rice industry and importation.Bantay Bigas and farmers protest against liberalizationn of rice industry and importation.

Manila, Philippines – Reacting to the National Food Authority’s (NFA) cry wolf of low supply of rice and its pronouncement of approving importing from private suppliers, Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao said that the NFA should buy more palay (unhusked rice) from the farmers to beef up its stock, than almost totally relying from those sourced from abroad.

“NFA is sowing fear about having low supply, by consciously hiding the fact they only intend to stock up imported rice and totally neglecting its supposed mandate of puchasing palay from Filipino farmers, instead of from foreign governments or private entities,” Casilao said in a statement.

Casilao said NFA’s over-reaction does not imply that there is no or critically low rice stock in the country, instead, they are only controlled by the private sector. He said that from 2011 to 2015, there was an upward trend in palay production, 16.6 million metric tons (translating to 10.9 million MT of rice at 65% milling rate) to as high as 18.9 million MT in 2014, then 17.6 million MT in 2015.

“The NFA’s problem is due to its import-dependence, which is actually reflected by its dis-orientation or embracing a neoliberal outlook, that its local purchase share to total production reaches almost zero percent, and its importation dwarfs the stock from Filipino farmers,” Casilao said.

Government data showed that the NFA’s procurement in 2011, reaching to 274,981 MT was a token 1.65% of the 16.6 million MT local production of palay; in 2012, 360,882 MT or 2% of 18 million MT; in 2013, 365,582 MT or 1.98% of 18.4 million MT; in 2014, 26,481 MT or almost zero share to 19.9 million MT; in 2015, 227,935 MT or 1.26% of 18.1 million MT.

The lawmaker added that NFA has already surrendered its mandate of securing the rice stock to the private sector, when its share to the inventory was surpassed by the commercial stock, as early as mid-2012. As of NFA’s latest data of stock inventory on November 2016, its stock of 546 thousand MT was a minority 17% of the total 3.3 million MT, while commercial stock at more than 1 million MT composed 33%, and 1.6 million MT or 51% as household stock.

“Why is the NFA acting like he is securing the rice stock in the country, when it is already at the hands of private traders aka cartel, meaning, it is the urgent task of the Duterte government to regulate this stock, while purchasing more and majority of the palay on the immediate next harvest season, as regulatory function in the rice market,” Casilao stressed.

Casilao recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte promised in May 2016 that the country will reach rice self-sufficiency and bar rice importation by the private sector.

“The president seriously knows the impact of the inaccessibility of rice on the poor people, that is why, he went to aid on the farmers during the Kidapawan carnage in April last year, if he is only to replicate the programs and policies of the past administration, more similar unrest will be brought to his attention by the very people who believed in him,” Casilao ended. ###