SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ—Rice traders here have been rationing their weekly allocation from the National Food Authority (NFA) to a kilogram of rice per customer, drawing complaints from residents who now patronize the government stock due to spiraling prices of commercial rice.
“I thought there is more than enough NFA rice? Why is it that we can buy only a kilogram? We traveled far for this,” a consumer complained.
A notice posted at the stall of an NFA retailer at the public market here said that buyers are restricted to a kilogram of rice, which costs P27 to P28, purportedly to free up more supply for other customers. Commercial rice sells for P45 a kilo.
A businessman, who asked not to be named for fear he would draw reprisals, said the 11 NFA accredited retailers here resorted to rationing to stretch their weekly allocation of 50 cavans from the NFA in Cabanatuan City.
According to him, the NFA requires them to maintain enough supplies on display. “What if the buyers from far villages who travel in tractors buy big volumes of NFA rice? There will be nothing left for me and I will be investigated by NFA inspectors,” he said.
In rice-producing Isabela province, commercial rice traders in Tumauini town have complained that rice milling stations are running out of cheaper grain stocks, so they have started to buy rice from neighboring Cagayan province.
“Stocks are running out in Isabela. If others have stocks, they sell at P500 per cavan, which is higher than the usual rate. So we are forced to buy in Cagayan now,” said Marissa Guo, a rice retailer of San Pedro village in Tumauini.
Guo said people also snap up NFA rice once stocks arrive, so traders follow an NFA protocol that allows them to sell up to
3 kilos of NFA rice to customers to sustain supply.
NFA warehouses in Isabela have 200,000 bags of unmilled rice, which are sufficient to support demand until the harvest period from the end of September to October, said Miguel Tecson, NFA-Isabela spokesperson.
“Aside from that, we have 30,000 bags of well-milled rice as buffer stock. The number does not include stocks of households and rice mills,” he said.
Isabela is one of the biggest rice producing provinces in Luzon, harvesting up to 1.1 million metric tons of palay each year. It trails only Nueva Ecija, which annually produces 1.2 million metric tons of palay.
Some areas in northern Nueva Ecija have started harvesting their rice and farmers have been able to sell their produce at a high price of P17 to P18 a kilogram, according to Muñoz rice traders.
In the Ilocos region, the NFA has set up mobile buying stations closer to the farms.
Carlito Co, NFA Ilocos director, said mobile procurement teams would reach the remotest farms to buy palay. He said the agency expects to buy around 1.4 million bags of palay, which would serve as the region’s buffer stock. The NFA buys palay at P17 per kilo plus some incentives.
“We could not just wait for the farmers to come to our buying stations to sell their palay. There are areas in the region where transportation problems prevent farmers from selling their palay to the NFA; hence, they deal with traders who go to them to buy their palay at a much lower price,” Co said. Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; with reports from Villamor Visaya Jr. and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon