Calls mount for NFA abolition
A group of prominent economists has joined calls for the abolition of the National Food Authority (NFA) due to the agency’s failure to fulfill its mandate to stabilize the supply and price of rice in the market.
In a statement on Thursday, the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) expressed its support to calls by several lawmakers to dismantle the grains agency, which has been denounced for the rice crisis in Zamboanga City and other towns and cities in Mindanao.
Senators Cynthia Villar and Sherwin Gatchalian have earlier called for the abolition of the NFA and the resignation of its administrator, Jason Aquino.
FEF urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to immediately pass the version of the rice tariffication bill that would abolish the NFA and its powers, including its ability to impose quotas on rice imports by the private sector.
Lower tariff rates
The group also called for tariff rates imposed on rice imports to be set “as low as possible” to make rice more affordable to consumers.
“With high average rice prices and periodic shortages, the NFA has also contributed to the country’s high wage costs and lower competitiveness. Food security does not depend on the existence of the NFA,” the FEF said.
The group recommended the creation of a “new and much smaller agency” that could maintain and manage the government’s rice inventory.
Villar on Thursday told the Association of Tourism Officers of Central Luzon that the NFA misused its palay procurement fund and was responsible for the unabated increase in the price of rice.
The NFA blames its governing body, the multiagency NFA Council, for the delay in importing rice as its stocks run out. NFA distributes low-priced rice to prevent commercial rice prices from dominating the market.
More rice imports
Malacañang said the NFA Council had allowed local traders to import more rice to augment the country’s supply and lower the prices of the staple.
In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the NFA Council had authorized the importation of rice in the private sector “beyond the minimum access volume.”
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters that while rice prices were expected to go down by November—when local farmers start harvesting palay and rice imports have already been distributed—it could only go down to as much as P40 a kilogram.
Senator Francis Escudero, for his part, said the Department of Trade and Industry should put a cap on the price of rice as importers and traders were already taking advantage of the rice shortage in some parts of the country. —REPORTS FROM KARL R. OCAMPO, ARMAND GALANG, TONETTE OREJAS, NATHAN ALCANTARA, PATHRICIA ANN V. ROXAS AND JULIE M. AURELIO
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