Duterte orders immediate importation of 250K MT of rice
President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the National Food Authority (NFA) to start the procurement process of 250,000 metric tons of rice, earlier than what was set by the NFA Council, to stabilize market prices.
In his Facebook page , Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said Duterte made the order to NFA Administrator Jason Aquino during the NFA Council meeting in Malacanang on Monday.
Quoting Duterte, he said Duerte did not want a repeat of the rice crisis in 2008 when people queued to buy rice.
"I don't want a repeat of that scenario," Pinol, quoting Duterte, adding he would rather have an excess supply of rice than shortage.
Earlier, NFA Council chairman Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. said importation of the 250,000 MT of rice would take place at a later date, with the arrival to be expected only by first week of June, after the harvest season.
As early as January, the NFA has been asking the Council to import 250,000 MT of rice due to its depleting buffer stock.
Evasco expressed doubt over the rice shortage, particularly of NFA rice, in the market.
Pinol said Evasco, who presided over the meeting after Duterte left, manifested that the NFA should start the procurement process since the harvest season for the first quarter of the year was almost over and it would take 45 days before the stocks would arrive.
He acknowledged that for the past weeks, prices of rice in the market "skyrocketed because of the absence of the NFA rice which is actually favored by the low-income sector."
"With the approval of the government importation, prices of rice in the market are expected to stabilize," he added.
Pinol said Duterte also ordered Aquino to invite the country's big rice traders to "share coffee" with him to discuss the national rice supply situation.
He said Duterte wants to convey to the traders he would not allow rice hoarding to the detriment of the consuming public.
"Not during my watch," Pinol, quoting Duterte, said.
According to Pinol, industry stakeholders have proposed that Duterte persuades the big rice traders not to hoard rice stocks and manipulate prices in the market. Celerina Monte/DMS