The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas today slammed the proposal of the National Food Authority (NFA) to import some 330,000 metric tons of rice to augment the projected deficit in local rice production.
“The first order for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the NFA should be to help farmers increase their productivity to achieve the targeted rice production and augment the rice buffer stock. The NFA pushing for rice importation is a great disservice to farmers and Filipinos.”
The country’s current buffer stock is at 51 days or lower than the ideal 90 days. NFA attributed this to the low rice importation. KMP strongly rebuffed the NFA importation proposal as it maintained that the government should be buying more rice from farmers rather than allowing rice importers to make a killing.”Ang dapat ay ibalik ang kapangyarihan ng NFA na bumili ng mas mataas na bolyum ng palay mula sa magsasaka, ayudahan at tulungan ang mga magsasaka.
“Bakit mismong ang NFA pa ang nagtutulak na mag-import tayo ng bigas samantalang dapat tumulong ang DA at NFA para pataasin ang volume ng domestic rice production,” according to KMP chairman emeritus and former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano.
KMP said the NFA’s statement and proposal counters the declaration of President and agriculture secretary Bongbong Marcos Jr. that the domestic rice supply is sufficient. “Ang sabi ng Pangulo: “hindi tayo magkukulang sa bigas.” Buffer stocking na nga lang ang binibili ng NFA sa mga magsasaka, gusto pa mag-import na lang. Importation for emergency buffer stocking is against the NFA’s mandate to solely purchase rice from local farmers,” KMP asserted as it noted that the Rice Tarrification Law has scrapped the NFA’s mandate to buy local palay from rice farmers.
Current palay farmgate prices are at ₱23/kilo for dry and ₱18.50/kilo to ₱19/kilo for fresh. The NFA wants to buy palay at ₱19/kilo. The group also maintained that the increasing rice prices in retail markets are a persistent result of price manipulation of the rice cartel. “For all we know, big rice traders and their cohorts inside DA are using the latest rice price hikes to push and lobby for more importation,” the peasant group said.”
KMP said there is an imperative need to hike the local palay procurement to reach at least 20 percent. Doing this will boost the local rice industry, and aid Filipino rice farmers. The NFA must also regain the upper hand in the buying and selling of rice to influence rice retail prices that are now heavily manipulated by rice traders and importers.
KMP has earlier proposed to increase the NFA buffer stocking fund to ₱79.8-billion for the procurement of at least 20 percent of the estimated 19.96 million MT of local palay production from local farmers at the farm gate price of ₱20 per kilo.