MANILA will utilize its emergency purchase power to bring in “much needed” rice from abroad, in addition to a previously approved amount of rice import for this year, a top official of the National Food Authority (NFA) said on Friday.
“We are now in the process of crafting the terms of reference for the emergency purchase of some 250,000. It will be out any time soon. It just needs the approval of the President,” the source told The Manila Times.
Under Presidential Decree 9184, the state-run grains agency may resort to alternative methods of procurement, especially during emergency cases.
“Well, we are in an emergency now,” the official said, adding that emergency rice purchases no longer needed the approval of the interagency NFA Council, which oversees the grains agency.
The source said the volume to be purchased from either Vietnam or Thailand under a government-to-government deal would arrive ahead of the earlier 250,000 metric tons authorized by the NFA Council to arrive in late May or June.
“We want a Swiss challenge scheme with this importation. Whoever can bring in the rice requirement the fastest and cheapest will be awarded the supply contract,” the official said.
A Swiss challenge involves an unsolicited bid and rival bidders making counter-offers.
The emergency rice purchase will bring the total rice importation this year to 500,000 MT.
“We are even considering bringing in the entire 500,000 MT under emergency rice purchase. Sabi nga ni President, ‘okay nang sobra, kakainin din naman dito `yan sa Pilipinas kaysa kulang (As the President said, better to have an excess than a shortage of rice, anyway it will all be consumed here in the Philippines),’” the source said.
Rice at P39 per kilo
Following Thursday’s meeting between Duterte and rice traders, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President was considering centralizing imports under the office of Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, subject to the review of the Office of the Executive Secretary.
In the meantime, rice traders will flood the market with 700,000 sacks of rice to be sold at P39 per kilo, Roque said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the President appealed to retailers not to hoard rice or sell at a higher price.
“I know that you are all businessmen and that you have to make a profit, but I am appealing to you not to overprice or hoard rice,” Piñol said Facebook post, quoting the President.
Piñol said the rice traders told Duterte that the first delivery of 100,000 bags would be channeled through the NFA, which, in turn, would distribute the rice at P38 per kilo to retailers in Metro Manila.
The rice retailers will sell rice at P39 per kilo for a profit of P50 per bag, he explained.
He said the traders would deliver 100,000 bags every week until the arrival of rice imported by the NFA.
The announcement came days after reports that NFA stocks in Metro Manila were “wiped out.”
WITH RALPH U. VILLANUEVA AND EIREENE JAIREE GOMEZ