By Celso Amo
LEGAZPI CITY --- The National Food Authority (NFA) in Bicol has admitted to the public that it has no more buffer stock in its warehouses.
Beth Jacob, Bicol-NFA information officer based here, yesterday said there’s no more NFA rice for distribution to NFA accredited sellers in Bicol.
“Our existing stocks are those reserved earlier by the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” said Jacob.
She said that quality wise it was just timely the inventory of the rice stocks for six months was depleted.
“But as far as our mandate dictates, we were not able to address our 15-day buffer stock,” said Jacob.
She said the NFA Council was not able to approve immediately the importation order so as to replenish the buffer stock good only for 15 days.
“During many interviews I had with the media, I already said that a worst-case scenario would come when the NFA’s inventory stock would be depleted if the imported rice won’t arrive soon,” she added.
She said that approval for rice importation was already “too late.”
To replenish its buffer stock, Jacob said NFA palay purchasers have been working double time to buy palay from rice farmers to take advantage of the harvest season.
“But we are still at a disadvantage compared to private buyers since we can only buy a
kilo of palay at P17.00 compared to private and commercial rice buyers who offer as high as P19.00 to P20.00 a kilo of palay,” said Jacob.
She said the importation request has already been approved by NFA Council during its last meeting which was attended by the National Economic and Development Authority(NEDA), Department of Budget and Management(DBM), Land Bank(LB), and Department of Finance(DoF).
“The meeting was also attended by President Duterte who ordered to fast-track the rice importation,” she added.
The rice purchase is still being negotiated and it’s not yet clear if it’s government-to-government or government-to-private transaction, she said.
Most likely it will arrive on May or June, she said, but from April to May the NFA has no more stocks to be sold to the poor and those living in far-flung barangays who are solely dependent on cheaper NFA rice in the country.
“But if the importation will be government-to-government it will be okay in ten days but if it will be from government-to-private it will take at most forty five days,” she added.
She said this is the first time in four years that NFA buffer stock has been depleted.
She said government-to-government importation is the best mode to replenish the depleted NFA rice stocks.
“NFA functions as price neutralizer; that is, if there are no NFA rice available in the market the price of rice sold by private supplier will surely shoot up,” she added.
She recalled that the NFA has been lobbying as early as May last year for the government to approve another round of rice importation.
“The NFA depends on the decision of the NFA Council,” Jacob said.
Last year, only 500,000 bags of rice arrived in Bicol, comprising one fourth of the NFA requirement for the whole year supply.
Jacob added that the 15-day buffer stock is equivalent to 50,000 bags of rice because Bicol consumes 40,000 bags of rice daily in which 10 percent is NFA rice while the rest are commercial rice, and in 15 days it’s 60,000 bags of rice, and in one month it is 120,000 bags of rice. One year supply for Bicol is 1.5 million of imported rice including buffer stock.