NFA says reforms working in rice trade as KMP hits imports
The National Food Authority (NFA) on Friday sought to dispute claims made by a militant farmers’ group that the Aquino administration’s policies, not calamities, are killing the local rice industry.
In a statement, NFA administrator Renan Dalisay said President Benigno Aquino III is leaving a legacy of “reforms that have restored the people’s faith in government.”
“From warehouses overflowing with rotting rice to warehouses full of fresh rice stocks ready to be deployed to areas that could be hit by natural calamities—this I think is the best example of the fruits of the reforms we have pursued at the NFA,” said Dalisay.
He said reforms at the NFA led to a decline in rice prices despite the onset of the lean season, which usually meant higher rice prices.
The average retail price of regular milled rice, according to Dalisay, is now P37.3 per kilogram, down from P38.9 per kg in January.
The average increase in rice prices has remained steady at
2 percent, a sharp drop from 14 percent in August last year, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.
“These are encouraging signs because this means we’re on the right track,” said the NFA chief.
He said credit goes to the NFA’s Bantay Bigas campaign, which monitors market prices and movement.
“As long as our actions are anchored on what is in the best interests of the people, we can’t go wrong. It’s when vested interests get involved that government goes astray,” said Dalisay.
The NFA is currently implementing a program called Bigas which Dalisay said is a blueprint that allowed the agency to focus on its mandate to ensure stable rice prices and sufficient supply.
“As a food staple, rice is a profitable commodity, which is why there are so many groups that want to influence its production, trade and distribution,” Dalisay said.
In Quezon, the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said contrary to what the President said, it is government policy, not calamity, that is killing the rice industry.
Aquino’s policy of rice importation and “corruption of agricultural funds remain as the main culprits in dwindling (local rice) production,” said Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, in a statement.
In the public market of Lucena City, buyers interviewed by the Inquirer scoffed at the rice self-sufficiency program of the government.
“That program is a myth,” said a retired public schoolteacher.
“Our officials are fooling only themselves,” said a tricycle driver.
Flores said the Aquino administration was the “biggest catastrophe to hit farmers and agriculture” in the country.
He said the Aquino administration spent so much on importing rice instead of supporting local rice production.
“The rice importation policy is killing the local rice industry,” he said, citing the 1.3 million metric tons of rice that entered the country in 2014.
According to Flores, millions of farmers remain the poorest of the poor, hungry and neglected by the government after five years of the Aquino administration.
“We declare Aquino guilty and punishable for heinous crimes against the peasantry. His Sona (State of the Nation Address) on Monday is his last ditch effort to conceal the atrocities committed by his pro-landlord administration in the past five years,” Flores said.
In 2012, Mr. Aquino predicted that the country would attain self-sufficiency in rice and might even be able to export grains, if the weather cooperated.
But a series of strong typhoons that hit the country devastated crops and damaged irrigation facilities.
In October last year, Presidential Assistant on Food Security Francis Pangilinan admitted that the government’s 2013 rice self-sufficiency target has been pushed back another two years.
In 2014, the NFA shipped in a total of 1.3 million metric tons of imported rice. This year, the agency has contracted foreign suppliers for shipments totaling 750,000 MT. Delfin T. Mallari, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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