NFA: Current rice supply not enough to stabilize prices

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The National Food Authority says more rice imports will arrive - but not earlier than February next year (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) —  The price of rice in the market has yet to stabilize because supply remains insufficient despite the importation of 500,000 tons of the grain, the National Food Authority said Thursday.

NFA Deputy Administrator Judy Dansal told a Senate committee hearing that aside from the recent importation, they need an additional one million metric tons of rice to stabilize prices in the market. 

She said the NFA needs to keep up a high volume of rice to sell and to allot some as buffer stock for food security. 

"To stabilize price we should have to have volume that you can unload in case prices are high. For this now we cannot meet, we cannot stabilize," she said.

"The stocks that we have right now is only good for 38 days" Dansal added.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas also suggested that the prices can taper off with rice imported by private traders through the minimum access volume, but Dansal said such imports won't arrive until February next year.

"The arrival is up to September 15 for the first phase and then the second phase should be on December to February of next year. The council approved this period because it should not coincide with harvest season," she said. 

Rice for the "poor"

Dennis Mapa, dean of the University of the Philippines School of Statistics, said the promise of the Tax Reform Law or TRAIN passed in 2017 is for poor households — which makes up the poorest 30% of the population — to be able to buy NFA rice at the discounted price of 28.80 pesos per kilo from its usual price of 32 pesos. 

However his findings show that poor households currently purchase commercial rice at 39 pesos.  Senator Win Gatchalian also noted that several markets do not even have NFA rice on hand. 

Mapa said food accounts for 60% of a poor household's daily consumption, 20% of which is for rice alone. 

Dansal argued that they already selling the remaining better quality stock rice at 32 pesos, and 27 pesos for a discounted price to poor households. Asked how the NFA determines which consumers are among the poor households, however, Dansal admitted, "We have no basis for that." 

Gatchalian maintained that priority should be given to access and price stability in all of NFA's efforts. 

"Among the several mandates of the NFA, two of the most important is price stability and also access to the poor, two of which walang nangyayari [nothing is being implemented]" he said. 

"Kumbaga nasa red alert na po tayo eh, wala na tayong time to dilly-dally [We are on red alert we don't have time to dilly-dally] and rice, being a very important component of the poor…we are putting a lot of emphasis on the access and the price of rice," Gatchalian added.