Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said it is possible to offer P27 to P30 per kilogram rice to the “poorest of the poor” but not P20 which is the campaign promise of presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Also, the new administration can only price rice this low if the budget for rice buffer stock is increased to P30 billion which will translate to 30 days buffer stock from the current five to seven days.
At the virtual EJAP Webinar on rising prices, Dar said on Wednesday, May 11, that he believes Marcos has the political will to increase the budget of state-controlled National Food Authority (NFA) which pays local farmers a farmgate price of P19/kg of rice, at the moment.
NFA currently has a budget of only P7 billion which is good for seven days buffer stock. To be able to offer a low of P27 to P30/kg of NFA rice, the NFA will have to have at least P30 billion as funding.
“We need additionally P23 billion dun sa budget ng NFA so magiging P30 billion a year. So, may 30 days na tayo ng buffer stock, pati yung rollover. Meron ka rice na ibebenta sa merkado from P27 to P30,” said Dar during a forum hosted by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines.
Dar, who has said he is willing to serve the Marcos government if offered the job, said he also supports raising the farmgate price from P19 to P20/kg if that is what Marcos wants to do.
On his campaign promise of bringing down the price of rice to P20, Dar interpreted that as farmgate price and not retail price. He said they are still “making the math” on that.
Initially, in his opinion, Dar said it is possible to have a P27 to P30/kg NFA rice once buffer stocks are increased.
“Having that as benchmark, basta may political will at additional budget na ibibigay sa NFA, then you can increase the ability of NFA to procure more from the present level. They only have P7 billion this year and last year (2021), so that’s equivalent for seven days. P1 billion a day you maintain at any given point in time, so 300,000 MT (metric ton). Yan ang resulta ng pag aaral,” said Dar.
The DA chief said the NFA rice will be sold to the underprivileged only and they will be given ID cards to avail of the low-priced rice.
Outgoing President Duterte has approved the DA’s move to increase its engagements with local government units to procure “palay” and to handle their own buffer stocking.
“We are aiming for the top 20 rice-producing provinces. We are readying na nga our discussion and dialogue with them for procurement na farmgate price of P19 to P20/kg,” said Dar. This should ensure a 30-day buffer stock from LGUs.
The DA target is to further increase the buffer stock to 60 days. But this is still a low rice reserves compared to India and China of one year buffer stock for rice and wheat.
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