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Philippine - Lift ban on imported rice in SouthCot ­ NFA
MindaNews, April 25, 2004
The National Food Authority (NFA) here urged the provincial government of South Cotabato to immediately lift the ban on the entry of imported rice in the province, citing a looming shortage of rice supply in the local market.

Rey Salvatierra, NFA provincial manager, said their rice stocks are fast depleting due to the limited harvests brought about by massive pest infestation that struck farmlands here last year.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) passed a resolution in 2002 banning the entry of imported rice in the province as local farmers complained about oversupply of rice in the markets that eventually pulled down the buying prices of palay.

Salvatierra said they were able to purchase only around 11,000 bags of palay from local farmers since the rice tungro virus and rat infestation started in the second half of 2003.

The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist earlier reported that pests, particularly rodents and corn plant hoppers, have destroyed some 2,600 hectares of corn and palay farmlands in the province. The infestation, which damaged some P71-million worth of crops, was one of the worst in recent years.

“We really need to augment our stocks (with imported rice) because the demand in the local markets now is also growing,” Salvatierra said during a media forum here this morning.

During the last three months, he said they already sold some 11,300 bags of rice to local government units in the area, specifically for the rice distribution program for farmers affected by the pest infestation.

For retailers, he said their average sales have reached at least 2,000 bags every week for the last three months.

“We will really run out of supplies if the imported rice will not come in. So the immediate solution is really for the provincial government, especially the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, to recall the ban,” he said.

Salvatierra, however, did not indicate the volume of imported rice the province needs.

The province’s projected rice requirement is 80,000 bags this year. Salvatierra said that since the ban on imported rice in 2002, not a single bag of imported rice has entered the area prompting them to depend mainly on local production.

Salvatierra said they would immediately request the NFA central office for allocation of imported rice in case the provincial government lifts the ban.

NFA assistant administrator Jesus Navarro earlier said they would import some 600,000 metric tons of rice for a planned distribution to rice-deficient provinces before the lean months from July to September this year.

The imports would reportedly serve as buffer stock and to fill the projected rice supply shortfall of close to P1 million metric tons this year.
MGR Archive 26.4.2004
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