Rep. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur has called for a probe of the country’s rice supply amid the disagreement between Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco and the National Food Authority Administration (NFA) over rice imports.
Villafuerte, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, made the call after being informed by the NFA’s Camarines Sur provincial manager Yolanda Navarro that the province had a buffer stock of only 42,293 cavans as of April 30, equivalent to three days’ consumption.
The lawmaker said that Camarines Sur’s rice supply for three days’ consumption is just a tenth of the recommended 30-day buffer stock level.
He said the inquiry should enable Malacañang to determine the real situation and draw up measures to avert a possible supply shortfall, including and if need be, the possible importation of rice either by the government through the NFA or private traders under the country’s Minimum Access Volume (MAV) commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“It behooves the House of Representatives to conduct a public inquiry in aid of legislation into the complete inventory of rice held by the government, private traders and households,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
The Evasco-led NFA council initially favored importation through private traders, but the NFA led by Jason Aquino wants the importation under a government-to- government scheme.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol urged Duterte to allow the NFA to import 250,000 metric tons of rice for the lean months of July to September.
Villafuerte said Congress should be able to get all the details so that it could take action on maintaining the ideal buffer stock level which is equivalent to a 30-day supply of the national daily rice requirement by the time domestic stocks dwindle.
“Considering the time needed for shipments to arrive in the country, now would be the best time for the government to green-light such imports—but if, and only if, such action would be deemed warranted in the course of the proposed public hearings on the supply situation,” he pointed out.
“If the rice inventory will be found adequate for the remainder of the year, then there is no need for the government to entertain rice imports as any unnecessary importation would unduly distort domestic supply and depress farm gate prices of palay (unmilled rice) which would only hurt local farmers,” he added.