President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday assured the public that the country has ample supply of rice and his administration is doing its best to control the price of the staple grain.
In a video interview, President Marcos said the rice supply situation in the Philippines appears to be looking good, assuring Filipinos that there would be no shortage in the coming months.
“Mukha namang maganda ang sitwasyon natin. Hindi tayo magkukulang sa bigas. At tinitingnan natin lahat ng paraan upang ang presyo ay ma-control natin at hindi naman masyadong tataas,” the President said after meeting with officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority (NFA) in Malacanang Palace.
“Magpa-plano kami kung kailangan mag-import, kung kailangan magpahaba, magparami ng buffer stock sa NFA dahil masyado ng mababa. ‘Yun lang ang nakita naming problema, mababa ‘yung buffer stock ng NFA. Kailangan bumili ‘yung NFA para umabot siya ng at least nine days na buffer stock,” the chief executive stressed.
President Marcos, however, pointed out that the NFA needs to buy its buffer stock from the local producer which drives the price of rice up, to ensure a sufficient supply of the grain.
“Ang problema, kapag sila ay pumasok sa merkado, pag sila’y namili na para i-replace ‘yung buffer stock na kulang nila ay tataas naman ang presyo ng bigas dahil marami silang bibilin,” the President noted.
“Kaya’t ‘yun ang hinahanapan namin ng paraan para i-adjust. Siguro ang magagawa natin ay ang pagbili ay hindi bigla. Hindi malaki. ‘Yun lamang, also, you have to remember. This is agriculture, cyclical ito, by season ito,” President Marcos explained.
The government, the President said, needs to make sure that the NFA will be able to build up its buffer stocks for now.
“In terms of the general supply for the country, I think we are in good shape. And although we’ll still have to import, our importations have come down. Our agricultural sector is beginning to come back beyond pre-pandemic levels. And so that’s progressing nicely,” said President Marcos, who also serves as DA chief.
Under the 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.
The NFA is proposing the importation of 330,000 MT of rice to cover an expected deficit in the country’s buffer stock for the relief operations of various agencies in the event of calamities this year.
Agriculture officials said the proposed buffer stock of rice is equivalent to nine days of national consumption from July 2023 onwards and will ensure sufficient volume for calamity and relief requirements from July to December this year.
Given the NFA’s budgetary constraints, the agency expects its buffer stocks will decrease to less than 500,000 sacks by July 2023, which is equivalent to less than a day of public consumption.
Under the NFA’s proposed rice importation strategy, the agency proposes that the rice importation arrangement be undertaken through government-to-government transactions, either through the Office of the President or its designated agency.
Republic Act No. 11203 has removed the regulatory and import licensing issuance functions of the NFA and reduced its mandate to emergency buffer stocking of rice sourced solely from local farmers and allowed the private sector to freely import rice subject to a tariff.
The NFA may use its credit lines with the Development Bank of the Philippines and/or the Land Bank to finance the importation and provide logistics and management support.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) can procure imported stocks from the NFA and exclusively manage the final disposition.
As of April 6, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has issued 989 Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) applications for 3.170 MMT volume of rice applied out of the 3,024 SPSICs.
Of this volume, 790,449.12 MT of imported rice has arrived.
Among those who met the President were Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla, Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez, NFA Administrator Roderico Bioco, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Director Gerald Glenn Panganiban. #