Author: Jasper Y. Arcalas
Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Philippine Statistics Authority.
THERE were empty tables and chairs at the office of the National Food Authority (NFA) where it conducted its first bidding of the year for rice imports under the government-to-government (G2G) scheme on April 27. The venue was not jam-packed despite the fact that the NFA was under pressure to replenish its depleted stockpile, which fell to less than a day of the country’s total national rice consumption.
The NFA had wanted to import rice earlier, but the government’s economic managers and the food agency’s highest policy-making body—the NFA Council (NFAC)—thumbed down the G2G scheme. They claimed that the procurement mode was “vulnerable” to corruption.
But the current state of the NFA’s buffer stock forced the government to resort to it again. The food agency was supposed to have a stockpile equivalent to 15 days of consumption, or around 465,000 metric tons. As of April 27 the buffer stock stood at only 8,500 MT. This caused the NFA to stop selling cheap rice.
The purchase of rice abroad via G2G would take only 30 days to be completed. In contrast, buying rice via the open tender would require at least 45 days.
The food agency now under the Department of Agriculture (DA) is currently struggling to bring back “affordable” rice in the market, the sale of which was temporarily suspended due to the depletion of the NFA’s buffer stock. The poor who patronize the NFA’s cheap rice, however, would have to wait a little longer.