Typhoon damage low but rice stocks dwindling

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Agriculture damage caused by typhoons remains minimal but dwindling rice stocks in government warehouses have raised questions about the government’s ability to respond to calamities.

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Christopher Morales, head of the Agriculture department’s Operational Planning Division, said the damage caused by typhoon Gorio and the southwest monsoon, enhanced by tropical storm Huaning, had reached P11.92 million.

Morales, however, said that losses in Luzon – a major agriculture production area — remained “negligible”.

“As of August 1, a total of 2,580 hectares of agricultural areas with estimated volume production loss of 484 metric tons were affected in Regions I, III and CAR. The affected commodities include rice, corn and high value crops,” Morales said in a telephone interview.

Losses have not been reported for Regions II, IV-A and V.

Morales said the impact on rice is particularly minimal as the reported damage represented less than a percent of the expected third quarter production.

“Most of the affected areas were in the western part of Luzon. We can expect a slight reduction of yield because of the rain, but no significant reduction in production since the areas were not destroyed,” he added.

Morales said regional field offices still had sufficient buffer stocks available for distribution to calamity stricken areas, particularly for farmers who want to replant immediately.

As this developed, National Food Authority spokesperson Marietta Ablaza said total rice inventory at government-owned warehouses had fallen to 2.3 million bags, good for less than four days.

“We have about 3.8 days worth of rice stocks left. It is still currently holding, but we expect this to further drop to lower levels in the coming days,” Ablaza told The Manila Times.

She said the state grains agency was currently stretching its stocks and had already stopped distribution of subsidized rice to retail outlets nationwide.

“Right now, most of our stocks are limited to calamity and disaster distribution. But once the notice of the award is signed, imported rice stocks should start arriving by second week of August,” Ablaza said.

Total rice deliveries of 250,000 metric tons will be staggered from August to September, with a total of 120,000 MT expected to arrive in August and 130,000 MT to arrive in September.

However, it is not clear whether the NFA will resume distribution of rice to retailers once the imported rice, good only for eight days, arrive.

The NFA needs to maintain a rice buffer stock good for 15 days at any given time and a larger 30 days at the onset of the lean months. This is based on the daily consumption requirement of 32,150 MT or 643,000 bags.

“We’re still lucky that prices or rice haven’t gone up,” Ablaza said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority, meanwhile, reported an upward adjustment in both farmgate and retail prices in fourth week of July 2017 – the sixth straight week of increases.

“The average farmgate price of palay at P19.48/kg recorded an increase of 0.28 percent from a week ago level of P19.42/kg and 3.92 percent from previous year’s price of P18.74/kg,” the PSA said.

Compared to the previous week, the average wholesale price of well milled rice — at P39.09/kg – was up by 0.12 percent. It was likewise 1.09 percent higher compared to the same period last year. The P41.93/kg average retail price of well milled rice was also higher by 0.16 percent from last week and 0.48 percent from a year ago.

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