No more rice shortage — NFA

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE National Food Authority yesterday gave assurance of a steady rice supply and dismissed speculations of a looming shortage of the staple grain.

In a press briefing at Malacañang, NFA director Rex Estoperez said the agency has begun a crackdown on erring traders, some of whom are reportedly passing off NFA rice as fancy or commercial rice and selling these at premium.

Following the dry spell in the first half of the year, and the onslaught of recent typhoons that devastated farms, prices of rice shot up, triggering speculations of a rice shortage.

“We don’t have shortage of rice especially because we have enough inventory in our warehouses,” Estoperez said.

Estoperez noted that before the onset of the dry spell, commercial rice used to sell at P21 per kilo but recently, the commodity was fetching P25 per kilo.

“Based on our computation, it’s P25 [per kilo] but because of the impact of NFA rice, the weighted average [now] is P23,” he said.

“In the coming weeks, we will have a stabilized price, lower than expected.”

NFA has posted one monitoring personnel per market tasked to find out the availability of NFA rice but also if unscrupulous rice traders are taking advantage of the situation to cash in.

“If they [rice traders] don’t have an P18-per kilo rice, we’ll suspend their [NFA] license for three months. Also we are investigating any unusual depletion of their rice supply, considering that there is a limit, 5 kilo per person, to the purchase of NFA rice,” Estoperez said.

“We have also put up a ‘Strike Team’, that would immediately respond to the report of our monitoring personnel, go to the site immediately to investigate and prosecute anybody, if necessary,” he added.

He admitted though that the expected rice harvest in Luzon was delayed by the dry spell and the recent typhoons but harvests from Visayas and Mindanao will augment the rice supply in Luzon and in Metro Manila.

Estoperez also said the NFA is importing 260,000 metric tons of rice to boost its buffer stock that could be tapped in case the expected harvests would be further delayed.

“As a policy, NFA should have a 15-day buffer stock but as a result of the dry spell and the typhoons, we might consume the food security stock, which should be the beginning inventory of 2008,” Estoperez said.

“That is why we have announced that we are importing 260,000 metric tons and we’ll be auctioning it on Sept. 7. Right now the arrival of our rice imports continues—this is the result of the June auction importation.”

The rice import has to come in within the month, he said.