THE state-run National Food Authority (NFA) on Monday said that it might start negotiations as early as November for the remaining half of its standby authority to fill the country’s rice requirement by the start of next year.
NFA Officer in Charge Tomas Escarez said that they have already submitted the proposal to the interagency NFA Council for approval, noting that the 250,000 metric tons of rice to be imported would include buffer stock in anticipation of the La Niña climate phenomenon, which is expected to start affecting the country by January or February 2017.
“We already imported 250,000 MT but then we think more is needed between January to February, which is considered as a temporary lean months because there is no harvest,” Escarez said told reporters on the sidelines of the agency’s 44th anniversary celebration.
The official said that they are just waiting for the final instructions from the NFA Council, which scheduled to meet on Tuesday (today).
Traditionally, lean season in the Philippines starts in July and ends in September. It is also the time when the government imports rice that would help stabilize price in retail markets.
But with the effects of La Niña expected to be felt in the country by the end of the year, the NFA Council will need to decide immediately if it will push through with the importation plan to prepare for the impact of a wetter climate.
“This will give NFA sufficient lead time to preposition the stocks nationwide in time for the season of tropical storms and typhoons which usually occur during the end of the third quarter until the fourth quarter,” Escarez earlier said.
La Niña, a weather phenomenon characterized by unusually cool ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, usually occurs after an El Niño episode. The weather phenomenon is also expected to bring heavy rains in most parts of the country, especially in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, Escarez assured that the public that there is more than enough stocks – with more than 18 days grains reserve stored at government-owned warehouses.
“At present, withdrawals at NFA warehouses nationwide was pegged at 32, 150 bags per day,” he added.
Under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program, the entire country should have a 60-day inventory at any given time, and a 90-day buffer stock during lean months.
The state-run grains agency alone is required by law to have at least 15-day buffer stock in its depositories at any given time, and 30-day buffer stock during lean months.
Last month, the NFA awarded to the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the supply contract for 250,000 metric tons of rice to beef up the country’s food security stocks.