Philippines to import rice, but government may not have to pay for it—DA
The Philippines will import 500,000 metric tons of rice in 2012, but the government may not have to spend a single centavo for the shipments, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
In an interview after a council meeting of the National Food Authority (NFA) Tuesday, Alcala said the 2012 importation program would be different from past purchases. This time, the government will not purchase the rice, reducing the role of the debt-laden NFA in the process.
For 2012, everything will be brought in by the private sector through bidding to be implemented by the NFA, Alcala said, expressing confidence that the private sector will be able to fill the projected gap next year.
The volume to be imported is 42 percent less than the 860,000 MT reported in 2011.
The decline in import volume is part of the Aquino government’s goal to turn the country into a self-sufficient rice producer by 2013.
Alcala said that traders would negotiate shipments for 250,000 MT of rice, while farmers’ groups would account for the rest.
This is the first time that the government will give the entire responsibility of importing rice to private traders, said Angelito Banayo, NFA administrator.
Unlike in the past, when the NFA would buy rice through government-to-government contracts, the agency now will no longer spend money to buy the country’s main staple in 2012.
Instead, the NFA “will focus on local palay procurement,” Alcala explained.
Apart from serving as the clearinghouse, the NFA will also regulate the private traders and farmers’ groups who will be allowed to import duty-free rice.
The NFA’s mandate is to stabilize the supply and price of the country’s top staple. It also buys rice from local farmers and encourages them to plant more.
The agency buys grains from farmers at P17 a kilo and, depending on the type of rice, sells it between P18 and P30—well below the retail price of commercial traders.
Last year, the country imported 860,000 MT of rice. Of that amount, 660,000 MT were brought in by private traders, while 200,000 MT were imported by the NFA from Vietnam, spending P4.22 billion for the shipments.
The NFA Council will meet again in March to determine if there is a need to ship more of the country’s main staple, Alcala said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.