THE National Food Authority (NFA) said on Wednesday that it bought 1.052 million bags of palay, or unmilled rice, from domestic farmers in the first quarter of 2019, with the agency settling into its new role of maintaining a buffer stock from domestic rice.
The NFA said that the total is 5,120% higher than the 20,540 bags procured in the first quarter of 2018.
According to NFA, it bought 780,397 bags of palay in March 2019, coinciding with the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law, which is awaiting the approval of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.
“We are not surprised though because March is the start of the dry season crop harvest and we were able to capitalize on our higher incentives versus the low buying price of palay traders,” Mr. Tomas R. Escarez, the NFA Officer-in-Charge Administrator, said in a statement.
“While traders reduced their buying price to as low as P14 per kilogram, we on the other hand increased our buying price up to P20.70 per kg for clean and dry palay,” Mr. Escarez added.
The NFA increased its target palay procurement from 7.78 million bags to 14.46 million bags for 2019. According to data provided by the NFA, the highest palay procurement as of March 31 this year was recorded in Tarlac with 116,907 bags, followed by Isabela with 112,855 bags, then Occidental Mindoro with 110,904 bags, Nueva Ecija with 87,072 bags, Sultan Kudarat with 70,996 bags, Bulacan with 58,454 bags, Bataan with 29,934 bags, Cagayan with 29,241 bags, and the province of Ilocos Norte with 26,143 bags.
“With the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Trade Liberalization Law, rice distribution was removed from the functions of NFA. We now have to shift our focus to palay procurement. NFA will continue to serve our farmers by buying their produce to ensure a reasonable return for their harvest especially now that farmers are suffering from the effects of El Niño,” Mr. Escarez said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimated that the rice crop suffered P2.69 billion worth of damage, with lost production of 125,590 metric tons (MT) affecting 111,851 hectares of land and 108,845 farmers across 37 provinces. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio