Solon slams gov’t’s food sufficiency claim after $100-M rice importation
Following the National Food Authority’s (NFA) purchase of $100 million worth of rice from Vietnam, a militant lawmaker on Saturday raised doubts over the government’s rice sufficiency claims, warning of “sabotaging economic effects of unchecked rice importation.”
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said the government should allocate resources for the development of local farmers instead of importing rice.
“Just last year Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala boasted that the rice sufficiency target of the department for the year was 98 percent and it will further improve in the succeeding years. If this is so then why are we importing still?” Colmenares said in a statement.
In anticipation of the June-August lean season, the interagency NFA Council on Wednesday awarded the supply of 100,000 metric tons of long grain white rice to Vietnam “based on their revised offer of $416.85/MT.”
In July last year, Alcala said in a briefing that the country has already achieved 96 percent food self-sufficiency from 82 percent in 2010.
However, presidential adviser on food security Francis Pangilinan previously said in October last year that the Philippines’ 2013 rice self-sufficiency target has been pushed back for another two years. Pangilinan then explored the possibility of the country importing more than 1.7 million MT of rice in 2015.
“We believe that it would be better for our agriculture particularly our local farmers if we allocate the budget for these rice imports to our local peasants. Bakit mga Vietnamese o Thai farmers pa ang makikinabang sa pondo natin?” Colmenares said. “Ibuhos na lang ang perang ito sa ating magsasaka malaki pa maitulong nito sa ating agrikultura.”
The senior deputy minority leader attributed the spike in rice prices to President Benigno Aquino III’s authorization of importing 500,000 MT in his 2014 State of the Nation Address (Sona): “His announcement effectively jacked up world market price of rice by $15 a ton because it projected a steep climb in rice demand. This announcement also jacked up local commercial rice prices by P2-3 per kilo.”
In January last year, NFA and Bureau of Customs insiders said the government’s rice imports from Vitenam in 2013, which amounted 705,700 MT, were allegedly overpriced by around P825 million. In June 2014, Colmenares’ Makabayan bloc has also called for a probe on the P2 rice price hike per kilo despite NFA’s importation of 800,000 to 1 million MT for the July to September 2014 buffer stock.
“President Aquino should explain in his next Sona whatever happened to his promise of rice self-sufficiency during his term,” Colmenares said. “Also with the importation anomalies revealed last year, I hope that the new NFA administration has done its homework and addressed these problems.”
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