NFA deal with supermarkets to sell affordable rice in limbo
A deal that would have allowed supermarkets to sell affordable rice is now in limbo after the National Food Authority (NFA) asked retailers to pay a huge sum for a permit that was not part of the agreement.
A top official of a supermarket group said that they learned recently that each retailer with a paid-up capital of P10 million needs to pay P115,000 to get an NFA permit to sell rice.
This despite the fact that it was the government who sought the help of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (Pagasa) Inc.
“It’s not just difficult, it’s impossible actually to want to help out,” Pagasa President Steven Cua told reporters on Thursday.
The group has about 200 stores across the country, catering to the B, C, and D markets. The deal could have given the public more access to the staple, whose soaring price had affected the poor the most.
There is only one supermarket in the group that has so far sold NFA rice, Cua said, referring to a store in Cubao, Manila. But this was only because this store has selling NFA rice in the past. This is not the case for the entire group, he noted.
When asked what would happen if NFA refuses to relax its rules, he said there’s nothing they could do about it. “There’s nothing we can do about it. There’s nothing DTI can do about it. It’s [all about] what NFA can do right now,” he said.
“It’s a legal requirement that to sell rice, we need a license. But in this particular case, if we don’t intend to sell rice after picking up the NFA rice, what are we going to do with the license? It’s no use,” he said in Filipino.
Not part of the deal
The group signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the NFA last week to make the staple more accessible to the public by increasing its visibility in the market.
The NFA wrote the draft agreement, according to Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, which the DTI later reviewed. She said requiring Pagasa to get a permit from the NFA was not part of the deal.
“There was no mention of accreditation or licensing in the MOA,” she told reporters on Thursday.
Castelo said the DTI is also appealing to the NFA to “limit its requirements,” but she stopped short of saying that Pagasa should not pay for the permit to sell the NFA rice.
NFA’s resistance came despite a recent order from Malacañang to reduce the gap between farmgate prices and retail prices of agricultural products.
“If they don’t want to, there is still MO [Memorandum Order No.] 26. It’s not just DTI they’re saying no to in that case. It’s the Malacañang and President Duterte,” she said in Filipino.
“We just wish the NFA would move faster. If they get to speed with how much the consumers need it, the better,” she added. /ee
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