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Philippines NFA may handle unused rice import quota
BusinessWorld, June 3, 2004
The National Food Authority (NFA) is considering the possibility of importing 155,000 metric tons (MT) of rice originally allocated to farmers' organizations (FOs) under the government's farmers as importers program.

NFA administrator Arthur C. Yap said the state-run agency is also looking at allowing the private sector to participate in the tender, which represents the remaining volume FOs need to bring in by June to beef up the country's buffer stock for the lean months of July to September.

"The options available to NFA are to open up this volume to all sectors, for NFA to import said volume to beef-up the government's buffer stock or a combination of both," Mr. Yap said in a statement.

He said the NFA is currently conducting an evaluation of the two options for bringing in the untilized 155,000 MT, which is part of the volume specified by the Interagency Committee on Rice and Corn as needed by the country to attain a 90-day rice buffer for the lean months.

The NFA said the low availment by FOs was due to the high prices of rice in the international market as well as the steep freight cost.

"The situation has made rice importation unattractive if not unprofitable. Rice traders have therefore decided to aggressively buy local palay instead of importing rice," Mr. Yap said.

The 155,000 MT forms part of the 310,000 MT allocation for FOs under the farmers as importers program. The NFA has already purchased some 610,000 MT of rice from various sources such as Vietnam and Thailand.

The farmers as importers program was introduced last year as part of the government's efforts to lift the NFA's monopoly over the importation of rice.

In 2003, only 315,993 MT of rice were imported out of the 400,000 MT FOs were allowed to bring in, prompting the NFA to open the program to private traders.

The NFA earlier projected national rice imports to reach 810,000 to 945,000 MT in 2004. This was based on a projected production shortfall as well as the buffer stock requirement of the NFA for the lean months.

The importation is being undertaken despite the Department of Agriculture's (DA) pronouncements that the country will be self-sufficient in rice as it projects palay production to reach 15 million metric tons for 2004.
MGR Archive 4.6.2004
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