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NFA to exceed palay buy target for first 6 months

Othel V. Campos

The National Food Authority said it is on track to exceed its target for buying palay, or unhusked rice, in the first half of 2024.

Acting NFA administrator Larry Lacson said the NFA has already procured 2.93 million 50-kilo bags of palay ahead of June, reaching 97 percent of its first-half goal.

This success is largely due to a recent increase in the government’s buying price for the grain, Lacson said.

“Farmers in several provinces in northern Luzon have yet to complete their harvest and they’ve appealed to the NFA to continue with our procurement,” he added.

In April, the NFA council raised the buying price per kilo of palay to a range of P23 to P30 for clean and dry rice, up from P19 to P23.

The price hike significantly boosted the NFA’s ability to buy rice and build its buffer stock, important as the typhoon season approaches.

Agriculture secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. expressed satisfaction with the increased buying and the benefit it provides to farmers.

He also mentioned a new “fastlane” system implemented by the NFA to expedite purchases from farmers selling smaller quantities.

Lacson reported the agency has only used half of its P9 billion procurement budget this year for the recent surge in buying. NFA also has P8 billion remaining from last year’s allocation for further purchases.

The current challenge, according to Lacson, is a lack of storage space, particularly in Region II.

To free up space, the NFA has begun milling some stock to fulfill a 500,000-bag rice request from the Department of Social Work and Development.

While rice procurement is on the rise, Tiu Laurel acknowledged the continued high retail prices of rice. He assured that the DA and other government agencies are exploring solutions to bring down the cost for consumers.

All this came in the heels of the House of Representatives’ approval on third and final reading of the proposed amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

Under the bill, the NFA shall be allowed – in the following order – to purchase local milled rice; purchase up to a maximum of 30 percent brought in by accredited importers at cost; and as a final recourse, once all domestic sources have been exhausted, directly import rice, subject to explicit authorization from the Agriculture Secretary.

The bill also extends the validity period for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or RCEF for six more years and boosts its budget from P10 billion to P15 billion.

President Marcos urged Congress to pass the proposed amendments to the RTL to allow the NFA to import and sell rice in a bid to stabilize prices.

Mr. Marcos said allowing the NFA to import and sell rice would help not only farmers but also consumers.

“If Congress permits the NFA to import, it will help stabilize rice prices, fulfilling its original mandate,” he said during the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) and e-titles to farmers at the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center.

“The NFA would be able to keep up with the private sector. This is actually the primary [reason] why the NFA was established,” he added.

At the Upper Chamber, however, some senators have opposed the bill due to concerns about the NFA regaining authority to sell and import rice, citing past corruption allegations.

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