“Local supply can definitely cover the needed buffer stocking without the need for importation. The National Food Authority should have strong political will to do this.”
By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – A Filipino farmers group said that the recent decision of the Philippine government to abandon its plan of importing 330,000 million metric tons of rice for buffer stocking is “well and good” but this is not enough to ensure rice self-sufficiency.
“Local supply can definitely cover the needed buffer stocking without the need for importation. The NFA (National Food Authority) should have strong political will to do this,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson emeritus Rafael Mariano.
Earlier this week, the NFA announced that it would no longer pursue its earlier plan of importing rice to increase the country’s buffer stock, stressing that the Rice Liberatlization Law prohibits importation unless it is an extreme emergency.
Mariano, also former agrarian reform secretary, urged the Philippine government to increase the palay buying price, ease the requisites in buying palay and to buy it from farmers for at least P20 per kilo.
Rice sufficiency by 2027?
The Department of Agriculture earlier presented a five-year program to stabilize the country’s rice supply through the Masagana Rice Program 2023-2028.
Among the strategies are climate change adaptation; farm clustering and consolidation to promote convergence of interventions; value chain approach; and digital transformation of the Philippine rice industry.
However, KMP said that a Marcos-era inspired rice program will serve as a “fix-all solution in achieving rice self-sufficiency,” adding that, “increasing rice yield without addressing the overall high cost of domestic rice production will be futile.”
The group also brought up the damage caused by the Masagana rice program of Marcos Sr. “The old MASAGANA wiped out more than 4,000 local rice varieties nationwide while allowing big agrochemical companies to rake in profits. If this is the inspiration and pattern of the regime’s five-year rice program then we already see its end,” Mariano said.
Tap unutilized funds
The KMP also urged the NFA to tap its unutilized funds to increase the palay procurement fund to at least 20 to 25 percent of total local rice production.
For one, the Commission on Audit reported in 2021 that the NFA’s unutilized funds (or the difference between the allocated budget and the utilized funds) for the previous year is at P8.1 billion ($144 million).
Mariano said that if only the NFA can buy 520,000 metric tons of palay from farmers with a 65% milling recovery rate, it can get around 338,000 metric tons of rice which is higher than what it initially planned to import. (DAA)