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Philippines NFA eyes Vietnam rice to “offset price of local rice”
Mindanao News, June 5, 2004
Officials of the National Food Authority here urged the provincial legislature today to lift the ban on rice importation so they can distribute Vietnam rice “to offset the high price” of local commercial rice in the market.

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

Luisito Mangayayam, NFA information officer, said the present cost per kilo of locally-produced commercial rice “is beyond the reach” of those living below the poverty line.

“We want the entry of imported rice in South Cotabato primarily to arrest the high price of locally-produced regular-milled rice which now fetches between P19 to P21 per kilo in the market,” he told MindaNews.

Mangayayam said there is considerable difference between NFA rice and those commercially produced by local traders in that the former only costs between P15 to P16 per kilo when disposed in the market.

He said they asked the provincial board to lift the ban on rice importation so they can procure 60,000 bags of Vietnam rice in anticipation of a possible rice shortage in the province this month until late August.

Mangayayam said that the months of July and August are a lean harvest time for palay, adding that the problem has been compounded by the dry season and the rodent infestation that hit most of the towns in South Cotabato early this year.

In case the provincial board lifts the policy on rice importation, Mangayayam assured that the imported rice “will not be distributed” by the local NFA in deference to the farmers, when they harvest in August.

Mangayayam assured farmers the buying price of palay will not go down, stressing they would not make the “Vietnam rice” compete with the farmers’ produce.

“We don’t want that [buying price of palay to go down] to happen. We are assuring our farmers that the Vietnam rice will not compete with their produce,” he stressed.

The local NFA presently has a stock of about 9,000 bags of unmilled palay.

This is a thousand bags’ short of the required minimum of 10,000 bags of rice required by the NFA, said Ed Fuentebella, NFA-South Cotabato’ acting standard quality assurance officer.

Fuentebella added that if the 9,000 bags would be milled, this would account for some 6,000 bags of rice.

“If the entry of the imported rice would only be allowed, we don’t have to fear a rice shortage in the province until August,” Fuentebella said.

Fuentebella and Mangayayam said the looming rice shortage in the province is compounded by the fact that palay stocks in the province are being bought by traders from Davao, General Santos and even Pagadian City.

Mangayayam said they are now limiting the disposal of NFA rice to accredited stores to only 2,000 bags a week.

He said that Sto. Nino town and parts of Noralla municipality would start palay peak harvest in late August but this would not be enough to supply South Cotabato because traders from other areas are buying them.

To fill in the void, Mangayayam said palay stocks from the nearby provinces of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato are boosting their supply.

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-- expected 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 one million metric tons this year.
MGR Archive 6.6.2004
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