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AUG 30, 2015

NR # 3942

Solons hit NFAs excessive rice importation


The National Food Authority (NFA) is under fire for the excessive importation of
about 2.1 million metric tons of rice for 2015, which lawmakers said jeopardizes the
livelihood of some six million farmers and agricultural workers nationwide.
In House Resolution 2231, Bayan Muna Partylist Reps. Neri J. Colmenares and
Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said the Department of Agriculture (DA) claimed the country has
attained rice self-sufficiency, having a total rice stock inventory of 3.02 million metric
tons as of June 1 this year.
The figure was 30.9 percent above the 2.31 metric tons in June last year, records
from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics showed.
Despite these figures, however, the rice importation by NFA for 2015 is at 2.1
million metric tons, according to Colmenares.
Colmenares said the 2.1 million metric tons include 500,000 MT procured by NFA
from Thailand and Vietnam through two rounds of government-to-government
transactions; 250,000 MT programmed for the lean season; 250,000 MT as reserve
volume; 300,000 MT delivery under last years Minimum Access Volume (MAV); and
805,200 MT private sector imports from China, India, Pakistan, Australia, El Salvador,
Thailand, Vietnam, and omnibus origin.
Given the rice self-sufficiency figures provided by the DA, the approval and
excessive importation of a total of 2.1 million MT in rice imports for 2015 is highly
irregular and doubtful, Colmenares said.
Colmenares said excessive importation would have fatal consequences to the
farmers. Even NFA admitted that the importation would cause the farm-gate price of
palay to go down from its current price of P17 per kilo, Colmenares said.
The excessive importation would also affect the consuming public, Colmenares
added.
The Aquino administration has been marred by its incapability to distribute rice
leading to overstocking, which results not only in expiration of these stocks but in
potential abuse and supply manipulation as well, Colmenares said.
This was the case during the sudden spike in the price of rice and other agricultural
products during 2014. Seemingly, the government has not learned anything from that
experience, Colmenares said.

The Aquino administration is likewise marred by slow rice distribution that is why
despite the record-setting importation, the consuming public did not benefit from
sustainable rice inventories, particularly in the countrys critical areas, according to
Colmenares.
Zarate noted that no less than President Aquino questioned the excessive rice
importation during the Arroyo administration during his first State of the Nation Address
(SONA). Yet, Zarate said, the situation worsened during his term.
Zarate pushed for the congressional inquiry saying it is the primordial duty of
Congress to partake in measures or actions that would ensure not only food security to the
public, but also their protection from those who try to abuse our resources.
Zarate said the House Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Special House
Committee on Food Security should conduct an inquiry and summon officials of NFA, the
Bureau of Customs and the Food Security Council to clarify issues relative to the
importation and the countrys rice self-sufficiency.
It is highly heeded that the NFA, the BOC and the FSC be made to clarify whether
or not the pronouncement made by Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala that the country
is self-sufficient is true or not, Zarate said. (30) mrs