Rice watchdog wants farmers, consumers in NFA Council

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15) — As the National Food Authority (NFA) Council faces possible reorganization, a rice-monitoring group said its membership should include more farmers and consumers nationwide.

“Kung i-reorg man yan ay magkaroon ng talagang farmer representative. Di lang farmer pero pati mga consumers kasi apektado dito sa nangyayaring krisis sa bigas ay yung mga consumers,” said Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo on Sunday.

[Translation: If it’s going to be reorganized, there should be representatives for farmers and consumers, because they’re the ones affected by the crisis.]

The NFA Council currently has representatives from the farmers’ sector, government banks, the departments of Finance and Trade, and other government offices.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol earlier said a revamp of the NFA Council may be discussed on Monday amid the shortage of cheap rice in the market.

The possible reorganization comes amid strained relations between NFA Council Chair and concurrent Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco and NFA Administrator Jason Aquino.

Estavillo also urged the NFA to acquire products from local farmers instead of relying on importation.

“Kung kailangan mo ng immediate relief doon sa kawalan mo ng hawak na produkto, mamili ka sa mga magsasaka, ongoing naman ang harvest season,” she said.

[Translation: If you need immediate relief on the shortage of products, buy from the local farmers, since the harvest season is ongoing.]

Estavillo also called on the government to implement a provisionary price control for commercial rice to ensure that prices remain stable while waiting for stocks of cheap rice.

In an earlier interview with CNN Philippines, NFA Region 3 Director and spokesperson Rex Estoperez confirmed that the agency is now awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's official statement on the fate of the NFA Council. He added that a decision must be made immediately amid the cheap rice supply shortage.