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NFA wants additional rice imports

State-run National Food Authority (NFA) wants to import an additional 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to boost its inventory and ensure the availability of low-priced rice for the rest of the year.

NFA Administrator Jason Y. Aquino said the grains agency was targeting an October arrival for the shipments, which he described as “backup plan” to prevent a repeat of an inventory depletion.

“We do not want this situation to happen again. We are planning [to import]as soon as possible. We will be proposing that because we do not want the importation to be hindered by rainy season again,” Aquino added.

The proposal will be submitted to the NFA Council and a decision could be made by next month, he said.

As for the mode of importation, Aquino said he preferred the government-to-government (G2G) scheme to facilitate importation.

Earlier this week, the NFA said it had only two and a half days’ worth of rice in its stockpile. Under the law, the agency is mandated to have at least 15-days worth of consumption at any given time and 30-day buffer during lean season, which starts in July and ends in September.

The Philippines’ rice consumption is expected to hit 14.08 million MT this year, way above the projected production of 12.26 million MT.

The country secured 500,000 MT from importations under the G2G scheme (250,000 MT) and open-tender procurement (250,000 MT) earlier this year.

The additional imports, the NFA said, will only be good for 15 days worth of consumption.

NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said the arrival of the initial 250,000 MT of rice from Thailand and Vietnam “somehow stabilized” domestic prices. A lowering will require the NFA will to literally “flood the market”, he added.

“The 250,000 MT isn’t enough to really change the movement of prices of rice in our local markets. It needs the second batch of importation,” Estoperez said

“We also need the additional 500,000 MT rice imports in order to really bring down the prices of rice in the market as private traders will, of course, match the NFA’s buying price and may even be pushed to create their bridge prices,” he added.

Government-subsidized NFA rice is sold at P27 and P32 per kilogram, much cheaper than commercial rice that is typically sold at P38 to P40 and above.

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