NFA Council OKs sale of 'aging but good rice'

By Stephanie Sevillano

June 19, 2024, 6:19 pm

<p>Regular milled rice (left) and well milled rice<em> (PNA file photo)</em></p>

Regular milled rice (left) and well milled rice (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The National Food Authority (NFA) Council announced Wednesday the approval of the Bigas 29 program, or the sale of “aging but good” rice stocks to select beneficiaries in Kadiwa sites starting July.

"This program primarily aims to provide rice at an affordable price of PHP29 per kilogram for the vulnerable sectors of society,” Agriculture Secretary and NFA Council chairperson Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said in a statement.

He stressed that the Bigas 29 is still in line with the food security and affordability targets under the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

Among the target beneficiaries are solo parents, senior citizens, persons with disability (PWD), and eventually Indigenous People (IP).

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa, meanwhile, assured the good quality of “aging” NFA rice which undergoes laboratory tests.

Hindi maglalabas ang NFA ng stocks na (the NFA will not release stocks that are) unfit for human consumption. So, may procedure naman sila diyan kung talagang hindi na nabenta iyong mga lumang-luma na. Pero hindi naman umaabot doon (they have procedures for stocks that have not been bought and are very old. But it hasn’t reached that point),” he said in an interview.

De Mesa said palay is considered “old” when it has been stocked for six months, while it is three months for milled rice.

NFA typically sells its stocks to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), and local government units (LGUs), among others.

Purchase limit

The NFA Council, meanwhile, set a purchase limit of 10 kilograms per household per month since the program targets to cater to 6.9 million families or more than 34 million Filipinos.

“Of course, this will not cover the requirements on a daily basis, but malaking bagay na makakatulong sa kanila na iyong sampung kilo na iyon ay nabili nila at PHP29 (that 10 kg. of rice bought at PHP29/kg. is a big help for them),” De Mesa said.

The DA said identification or monitoring cards will be used to check on the one-time or staggered buying of 10 kg per beneficiary.

Overall, the NFA will target to supply 69,000 metric tons (MT) of subsidized rice, with social costs ranging from PHP1.39 billion to PHP1.53 billion per month.

De Mesa also clarified that NFA’s import plan concerning the Bigas 29 program is just “an option for augmentation” in case its stocks run out.

Tariff cut

Laurel, meanwhile, said he will discuss with President Marcos issues concerning the planned tariff reduction to 15 percent on imported rice, as it may affect farmers if implemented over a long period.

He said there’s a need for a “periodic review instead of a fixed reduction” until 2028.

“In our discussions with industry representatives, the suggestions ranged from reviewing the tariff every six months to one year or even every four months,” Laurel said in another statement.

Earlier, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved the reduction of tariffs from 35 percent to 15 percent to minimize the impacts of high retail prices on the general public.

The tariff cut is expected to lower the retail price of imported rice by PHP6 to PHP7 per kilo. (PNA)