Private traders should be banned from importing rice thru the state-run National Food Authority (NFA), a lawmaker said on Thursday.
Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte of Camarines Sur proposed the ban two days after he moved to summon the 13 rice traders whom Rep. Manuel Luis Lopez of Manila accused of manipulating rice prices.
These traders were identified by Lopez as Evergreen, Rising Sun, GRC, CGG, Expo, Arns, Working Gold, Leoneco, PMT, Hype Rice, LM Rice Cereal, MML Grain Center and Grandio.
“The NFA Council should discontinue its long-standing policy of allowing private traders to import rice given that certain unscrupulous individuals have cashed in on this system to corner the bulk of domestic supply and unduly jack up prices of our staple food,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
“We need to fix this to protect both farmers and consumers,” he added.
Under the current system, the NFA has the sole power to import rice but the NFA Council allows private traders to purchase stocks from abroad through the NFA.
Villafuerte said the ban would be wise, citing Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol saying during a congressional probe that there are private traders who import rice of lower quality then mix it with locally produced varietaies so they can sell the staple at higher prices.
“Consumers must never be at the mercy of avatricious traders who are allowed to import stocks though the NFA. Having said that, the NFA must regain full control of rice imports in accordance with its mandate of buying, warehousing and distributing stocks to consumers at the cheapest price possible,” he added.
During the same congressional probe, the NFA announced that it only has 106.86 metric tons of supply, which is good for 1.7 days since the 1,321.51 metric tons good for 42 days are in the hands of households while 857 metric tons–good for 27 days–are in commercial establishments.
Rep. Ariel Casilao of party-list Anakpawis called on Congress to probe the status of NFA rice stock in Northern Samar that is currently at 13,442 sacks.
“The declining stocks would be a big problem to poor farmers and fisherfolk as they can only afford to buy lower-priced rice in the market,” Casilao said in another statement.