Rice import deferred amid ample supply

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THE National Food Authority (NFA) has deferred again its rice importation plans because there is ample inventory at government- and privately-owned warehouses.

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As of April 1, more than 3.3 million metric tons of rice in stock—well above the inventory requirement for the lean months —which is sufficient to feed the population for 105 days. The Food Staples Sufficiency Program requires 90-day buffer stock during lean months and 60-day supply at other times.

Traditionally, the lean season is from July to September. It is also the time when the government imports rice that would help stabilize price in retail markets.

The NFA spokesperson Angel Imperial also cited, during a telephone interview, other factors behind delaying a decision on imports.

Among them, the possibility of NFA moving back to the Department of Agriculture, that the grains agency has not so far received formal instructions for importation, particularly the mandated buffer stocking by the government and use of the minimum access volume (MAV) by the private sector, and a show of respect for the incoming President, Rodrigo Duterte. And he pointed out that the decision of the Duterte administration could be expected by the first week of July.

The former NFA Administrator Renan Dalisay had stated prior to his resignation that the agency has already prepared all possible rice importation schemes ready for approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The policymakers of the Aquino were said to be considering utilizing the minimum access volume (MAV) for the buffer stocking. MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce allowed to enter into the Philippines at reduced tariff of 35 percent, while shipments outside MAV pay higher rates of 50 percent and would need approval by the National Food Authority.

Another option being considered is through government-led importation using the standby authority about 500,000 MT. At present, Manila limits to 805,000 metric tons the amount of rice allowed to enter the country through the scheme.

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