• NFA still interested in buying smuggled rice

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    The National Food Authority (NFA) on Tuesday debunked reports that it allegedly prevented the auction of smuggled rice seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), saying that their proposal to buy the grains will help the expeditious disposition of the stocks.

    In a statement, NFA administrator Orlan Calayag said that the proposal to buy the smuggled rice, brought into the country through port of Cebu, was meant to give BOC an option for the expeditious disposition of the stocks and was not to interfere with its operations.

    He said that the proposal to enter into an agency-to-agency arrange-ment with BOC with regard to confiscated smuggled rice stocks was also made with the end view of strengthening the partnership between the two agencies.

    The NFA’s intentions for the proposal were explained by Calayag in two letters to Customs Commissioner Rozza-no Rufino Biazon dated July 9 and 17, 2013.

    Calayag issued this clarification in the wake of media reports that the NFA had allegedly attempted to prevent the BOC from undertaking a scheduled auction of the seized rice.

    He said that he was concerned that during the lean rice production months, from July to September, when harvest is very minimal, and the situation may be taken ad-vantage of by some traders who would constrict market supply to create an artificial shortage and raise prices.

    “The rice stock held by BOC, if infused into the market, will counteract any attempt to distort the rice market,” he said.

    Calayag said that the NFA’s legal team is currently reevaluating the legal basis for the proposal, particularly in connec-tion with the Procurement Act in relation to the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

    He also recommended the immediate disposition of the seized rice, so that the bureau may help stabilize the price of rice in the market.

    Meanwhile, with the release of NFA well-milled rice at P32 each kilogram, market prices of rice have been stabilized. Commercial rice traders imme-diately released their own stocks priced at P31 to P33 each kilogram, thus bridging the gap in prices and providing more options for consumers to choose the kind and quality of rice they can afford to buy.

    Before NFA released the mid-priced well-milled rice, the agency’s monitoring teams observed that commercial rice prices for the same quality of rice were being sold at P34 to P35 a kilogram.

    Calayag also belied reports that rice prices in Cebu have increased by P4 a kilogram, saying that the NFA in Cebu has more than enough stocks to counter any sharp increase in rice prices.

    NFA Cebu presently holds some 1.2 million bags of rice, which is good for 63 days or way beyond the standard requirement of 30 days.

    Calayag said that the NFA would soon release the agency’s well-milled rice at P32 a kilogram in Cebu to further stabilize rice prices in the area.

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