State-run National Food Authority (NFA) is mulling the importation of around 800,000 metric tons (MT) of rice via government-to-government scheme that will serve as the country’s buffer stock in preparation for the start of the lean months.
This comes after the NFA decided to reject the extension of the private sector-led importation under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme.
In a briefing yesterday, NFA administrator Jason Aquino said importation would cover 250,000 MT as standby authority and another 550,000 MT for the lean months which starts in July and ends in September.
“Buffer stock of the NFA is short. By the end of June, we will be short of three days that’s why we are pushing for the approval of the 250,000 MT importation,” Aquino said.
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It would be recalled that the Food Security Committee approved 500,000 MT of rice imports last year, half of which had been already awarded to Thailand and Vietnam.
The remaining half was not utilized due to oversupply of the grains in both government and private warehouse because of less than expected impact of the prolonged drought.
“We need to beef up supply. If we get hit by typhoons, we might not be able to support the needs of the local government units. We might run out of stocks,” Aquino said.
“We will ask again for the implementation of that because it was already approved. We need to utilize by June this year the remaining standby volume to cover the gap in our 15-day buffer stock requirement,” he added.
The 250,000 MT of rice are targeted to arrive by June, Aquino said.
Apart from the 250,000 MT, the NFA will also propose the importation of another 550,000 MT of rice, which would cover the higher buffer stock requirement for the lean months.
“Bidding for that (550,000 MT) would come later [after the arrival of the 250,000 MT],” he said.
The NFA is mandated to maintain a food security reserve that is good for at least 15 days at any given time.
By July 1, which marks the onset of the lean season for rice, the NFA must have at least a 30-day buffer stock to meet the requirements of victims of calamities and emergencies.
Current rice inventory is about 2.6 million MT, 1.26 million MT of which is held by households, 948,000 MT in commercial warehouses and 400,000 MT in NFA warehouses.
However, the NFA chief admitted he has yet to discuss the proposed volume to be imported with the interagency NFA Council.
Meanwhile, Aquino welcomed the probe that will be conducted against him following allegations he and other NFA officials were turning government-led importations into a cash cow.
“I will not fail our President. I will continue to do my job to the best I can. Accusations against me are wrong and malicious. I welcome any investigation from any agency of the government,” Aquino said.
The Office of the Cabinet Secretary under Leoncio Evasco Jr. has accused Aquino and deputy administrator Ludovico Jarina of connivance for undertaking actions without the approval of the NFA council.
Aquino is now facing serious disciplinary sanctions over his repeated defiance of the NFA Council’s decision to extend rice importation under the MAV scheme.
The MAV refers to the volume of a specific agricultural product that is allowed to import with a lower tariff as a commitment of the Philippines under the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of the World Trade Organization.
The annual MAV importation is being shouldered by the private sector.
The NFA council is composed of Evasco and representatives of the NFA, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines, Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry and National Economic and Development Authority.