Rice importation remains an option for emergency, relief ops

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

April 19, 2023, 9:05 pm

<p>File photo</p>

File photo

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the government is looking at the option of importing rice to beef up the country's supply in the event of natural calamities, such as typhoons and the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Marcos, however, assured that the country has ample supply of the staple grain to keep the prices stable in the market.

He also dismissed the possibility of a repeat of the rice crisis in 2018.

“So, we are watching and waiting to see what the production levels are going to be after the last planting season before the harvest, for the upcoming harvest and what will be…” Marcos said in a media interview during an event in San Jose del Monte City.

“So ‘yun ang tinitingnan natin (That's what we are looking at). We may have to import. So that’s --- we’re keeping that option open," he added.

The President said the buffer stock of the National Food Authority (NFA) had been depleted due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, which hampered the operations of most of the industries.

Marcos said the government is trying to figure out how to boost its buffer stock without causing the rice prices to rise during harvest season, considering that the NFA is only allowed to buy from local farmers.

Under the Department of Agriculture's (DA) 2023 supply outlook, the country’s total supply is at 16.98 million metric tons (MMT), which is sufficient to cover this year’s demand estimated at 15.29 MMT.

“This would leave the country with an ending balance of 1.69 MMT, which is equivalent to 45 days of buffer stock, instead of the 90-day ideal buffer stock to stabilize the price of rice,” a DA briefer said.

Providing affordable food items to the grassroots

Marcos launched another outlet of the Kadiwa ng Pangulo Program in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan to provide affordable agri-fishery commodities to consumers and a ready market for farmers and fisherfolk.

Marcos is envisioning the program as a platform to bring affordable food items to the grassroot level to manage food inflation, as well as provide more income opportunities for farmers, fisherfolk and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Ginagawa namin ang lahat upang paramihin ang ating mga Kadiwa hanggang umabot na kahit sa malalayong lupalop at lahat ng ating mga kababayan ay makaramdam ng kaunting ginhawa dahil nga sa pagbaba ng mga presyo ng bilihin (We are trying our best to open more Kadiwa stores so that it could reach even the farthest areas and every Filipino could at least experience a bit of relief as the prices of basic goods go down),” he said.

The President also awarded interventions amounting to PHP15.793 million for several farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) in Bulacan province.

The Dulong Bayan Farmers Association based in San Jose Del Monte City received PHP5 million from the Department of Agriculture (DA)-National Rice Program for the construction of warehouse with mechanical grain dryer. It also received PHP5.5 million from the DA-National Livestock Program for the Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE) implementation.

On the other hand, the Biyaya ng Matangtubig Irrigators Association, Inc. of Baliuag town, the Sta. Catalina Matanda Bata Irrigators Association of San Ildefonso, and the Magmarale Farmers Field School Marketing Cooperative of San Miguel each received PHP1.764 million worth of rice combine harvester from the DA-Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization. (PNA)