Farmers’ group calls for abolition of NFA for always relying on rice imports
MANILA, Philippines — A large coalition of farm groups, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), has called for the abolition of the National Food Authority (NFA) for its reliance on rice imports over buying produce from local farmers.
Head of SINAG Rosendo So issued the statement on Sunday after reports of NFA’s preference for imported rice from India and Vietnam.
“They’re not buying from our farmers anymore. They’re buying from Vietnam, India. They’re negotiating on rice. What’s this?” So lamented as he worried that funds for procurement of local produce might be transferred to buying imported rice from India.
“They might use the money allocated to buy domestically produced palay to acquire imported rice again,” he added, referring to the agency’s P8.5 billion available funds for procuring rice.
So explained that NFA’s move contrasts with the current administration’s goal to boost the crop sector’s rice production.
“If the NFA will not help the country’s grain and farming industry by buying domestically produced rice, then the agency should be abolished,” So said.
“Since they are running contrary to the President, the NFA is not helping by buying ‘palay,’ then we should just abolish the NFA,” So reiterated.
So also noted that the agency could buy rice at a lower rate in other regions nationwide, citing the Philippine Statistic Authority data showing average buying rates per kilogram of domestically produced palay was between P18.50 to P19.
“If you are comparing price ranges, especially in Nueva Ecija, prices there are really high. But if you check on Mindoro and other areas, prices there are lower,” he said.
According to So, NFA justified its decision by announcing it has only 46,000 metric tons of rice left in its inventory, suitable for just 1.3 days. However, the SINAG head said this is the agency’s fault for not buying locally-produced rice to add to its stock.
“We will file cases against them before the Office of the Ombudsman just like what we did in 2018 when they used the budget for the procurement of play in the importation of rice,” So noted.
The SINAG chair was referring to a case it filed to former NFA administrator Jason Aquino and accounting services department manager Gerry Ambrocio for technical malversation and graft at the Ombudsman over the questionable use of P5.1 billion in NFA funds.