The National Food Authority said it is too early to judge the overall impact of the Rice Tariffication Law (Republic Act 11203) and resisted calls for it to be amended.
"Since the law is still new and the rice sector is still under a transition period, we cannot yet attain or savor the full benefits of the law, although we can already see and feel them,” NFA Administrator Judy Carol L. Dansal said in a statement.
The law removed the restrictions on rice imports while charging a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain. The tariffs generated will provide P10 billion a year to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which will assist farmers with mechanization, obtaining quality seed, and accessing farming know-how.
It also removed the NFA’s importing functions and left it with the main functions of maintaining a buffer stock via domestic purchases and supplying subsidized rice to the poor. Its purchasing activity helps set a floor for the price of palay, or unmilled rice, the form in which farmers sell their harvest.
The NFA buys palay for P19 per kilogram, but it cannot buy the entire domestic harvest due to limited funds and storage, leaving farmers to deal with private traders, who undercut the NFA price.
The NFA said it purchased around two million bags of palay in September, for an average of 90,012 bags per day.
The Cagayan Valley was the top source of palay procured by the NFA with 505,440 bags, followed by Western Visayas 318,383 bags, Central Mindanao 298,665 bags, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) 121,910 bags, and Bicol 100,714 bags.
Ms. Dansal said the NFA is ready to purchase the harvest through its 558 warehouses and buying stations.
"As instructed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and pursuant to our mandate of buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies, we do our very best to accommodate as many farmers who would want to sell palay to the government," Ms. Dansal said.
According to the NFA, some 4.93 million bags of palay were purchased in the year to date as of Sept. 29.
The NFA recently sought to boost its purchasing power by signing agreements with Quirino and Isabela provinces, which agreed to participate in purchasing by supplementing the NFA purchase price by add P1 and P2, respectively using their own funds. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave