Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s rice self-sufficiency projections and the National Food Authority’s (NFA) reported plan to import another 100,000 metric tons (MT) of rice this year have lost the confidence of the Aquino administration’s economic team, lawyer crusader Argee Guevarra divulged on Tuesday.
“The cat is out of the bag; Alcala should just come clean,” said Guevarra, referring to a supposed September 2013 National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Memorandum for the President signed by NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, “a document conclusively and categorically belying all of the DA [Department of Agriculture]-NFA’s pronouncements.”
Defending his agency’s projections, Alcala has consistently maintained that the country would achieve full rice self-sufficiency by the end of the year.
Despite Alcala’s positions, however, it was reported this week that the NFA planned to import another 100,000 MT of rice supposedly “to normalize and defend prices against manipulations by rice cartels.”
“Contradictory statements by Alcala and his minions that have now been revealed for what they are—lies woven and told for the benefit of a few and at the expense of the public,” alleged the UP-trained lawyer.
Citing “contents” from the memorandum, Guevarra further said that “even with buffer stocks, this year’s deficit is projected to increase to 2.2 million metric tons for a 15-day buffer stock of 456,000 MT and 2.6 million MT for a 30-day buffer stock of 912,000 MT.”
“This explains what Alcala could not explain all this time. This explains why rice prices have persistently and progressively increased the last few months. Kulang ang bigas, ganun lang kasimple [Supplies are not sufficient; as simple as that],” he added.
In the joint hearing of the House of Representatives committees on agriculture and food security, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) director, Assistant Secretary Romeo Recide admitted that the DA could not meet this year’s rice production and self-sufficiency targets.
Alcala has since claimed that Recide was mistaken.
“But Recide was not wrong inasmuch as Alcala was not telling the truth,” stressed Guevarra. “The BAS and NEDA’s figures tally: production deficits may range anywhere from half-a-million to 1.4 million MT.”
If true, the figures likewise explain why the NFA has “silently” been planning to import another 100,000 MT of rice via a government-to-government (G2G) transaction.
“Here they are again, insisting on the same graft ridden G2G scheme, which nobody is buying anymore,” said the lawyer.
It has been previously reported that the DA-NFA G2G importation transaction in April was overpriced by as much as P457 million.
Balisacan, an economist and himself a previous Agriculture undersecretary, in the past, has opposed government importation as they are “prone to corruption.”
“And for good reason—as we now all see,” Guevarra said.