State-run National Food Authority (NFA) on Wednesday called on its employees to be vigilant for any unwarranted movements in rice supply and prices, as it warned unscrupulous traders from taking advantage of the current situation in the grains industry.
“We can never tell when this situation may be taken advantage of by some unscrupulous elements in the rice industry . . . at this time when harvest are still low,” NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag said.
He said that rice traders, particularly those affected by the massive cut in imports, are currently engaged in a media campaign to disrupt efforts to cleanse and to effect true and meaningful reforms, to make the agency more efficient and effective in complying with its twin mandate of ensuring food security and stabilizing the price of rice in the market.
“We must face this challenge as we continue to make an earnest effort to improve our rice situation and make food security and self-sufficiency a reality for all Filipinos,” Calayag said.
He also assured the public that there is no cause for worry as far as rice supply is concerned, noting that several major rice producing provinces have started early harvest in mid-August.
“There’s no truth on alleged shortage in the supply of rice. As of 27 August 2013, we have an industry inventory of 2.11 million metric tons of rice that is enough to last us for 64 days,” he said, adding that NFA inventory is at 652,801 metric tons (MT) that is equivalent to 18 days. Calayag also noted that harvests are currently ongoing in Western and Eastern Visayas, Western, Northern, Southern and Central Mindanao, Cagayan Valley and part of Southern Tagalog.
Enough rice supplies
The projected palay or unmilled rice harvest from the provinces in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), Region 6 (Western Visayas), Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) and Region 12 (Soccsksargen) (for the month of August alone is expected to reach 388,210 MT.
“Under the present administration, the NFA has been successfully able to intensify its domestic palay procurement,” he said.
From January to August 2013, NFA palay procurement reached 281,767 MT, or 312.46 percent higher that the procurement for the same period last year of 68,313 MT.
Also, the NFA was able to bring down its importation from a high of 2.3 million MT in 2008 to 205,700 MT this year.
“What is worrisome, though, is the effort by some private traders to make it appear that there is a shortage by hoarding the commercial inventory. In early August, the private warehouses in Intercity in Bocaue, Bulacan, were full,” he said.
Media reports have stated that these warehouses are now empty.
“Reliable sources have informed us that the reporting of an artificial shortage and the hoarding are part of a campaign designed to undermine the present administration and compel us to relent on our campaign against unscrupulous rice traders,” he said.
Calayag said that the NFA has dispatched teams to track the whereabouts of commercial rice stocks, and to build a case for hoarding against those responsible.
At the same time, the NFA chief said that he has instructed all the agency’s regional managers to deploy mobile procurement teams and to open buying stations nationwide 24/7.With the intensified presence of its personnel, NFA seeks to acquire a more substantial portion of the rice harvest to ensure food security and stability of prices of the country’s staple food.
James Konstantin Galvez