SAN JUAN, La Union: The National Food Authority (NFA) here assured the public that there are enough rice stocks in the province until the next importation arrives in June.
Fortunato Bulao, NFA-La Union provincial manager, said there are 692,453 bags available in the province now, adding that they are expecting production of 115,375 more bags this month.
About 250,000 metric tons or 400,000 bags of imported rice have been allocated for Region 1 and expected to arrive in June.
As soon as the supply arrives, 75,000 bags will be set aside for La Union.
Bulao said rice consumption of the province at present, according to NFA figure, is 5,800 bags daily or 162,400 bags a month.
The available stocks are expected to last for less than four months or until May this year.
In the NFA warehouse here, some 8,000 bags available, of which 2,000 bags are reserved for emergency relief operations, the reason why the government’s only option was to import rice.
“We are anticipating that the rice importation will come just in time, before the lean months,” Bulao said.
The average price of NFA rice in the market is P32 a kilo while the commercial rice is P43.50 a kilo.
The buying price for palay (unhusked rice) is P17.70 a kilo.
Meanwhile, farmers in Northern Mindanao urged the national government to stop the “cartelization” of rice supply in the country to stabilize the prices of the prime commodity.
Ireneo Udarbe, regional secretary of the Kilusang Mabubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP), said the prices of rice have gone up to more than P40 per kilo in the market today – in contrast to the usual P30 per kilo last week.
Udarbe blamed the rising prices of rice in the local market on private businessmen, particularly the Minimum Access Volume (MAV), a group of big private rice traders, authorized by the government to import rice.
“The MAV is expected to deliver 350,000 metric tons of imported rice any time in February or March this year, but whether the supply could pull down the prices of the rice in the market remains to be seen,” Udarbe said.
He added that the government should be responsible for the importation of rice so that prices could be effectively controlled and should not be given to private importers who dictate the prices in the local market.
“Allowing the big-time private rice importers to control the supply and prices of rice in the market simply means ‘cartelization’ of the prime commodity,” he added.
In a dialogue with the farmers, NFA Regional Director Fernando Nuñez said the 250,000 metric tons of imported rice from Vietnam and Thailand are expected to arrive in the country in June this year.
Nuñez said the NFA has a buffer rice supply in its warehouses, but is releasing the supply gradually until the imported rice arrives.
The KMP also urged the NFA to buy locally produced rice at competitive prices.
The NFA is buying the locally produced rice at P 17.00 per kilo while the local rice traders purchase it at P 22.00 per kilo, Udarbe said.
Nuñez said the NFA has also recommended to the NFA National Council the increase in the NFA buying price of P 22 per kilo but the council is yet to act on the request.
with CRIS DIAZ