P27 rice to last until first quarter of 2019: Pinol
Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol said consumers have until first quarter of 2019 or until supply lasts to buy NFA (National Food Authority) rice with a retail price of P27 per kilo.
"The moment the last NFA importation runs out, there will be no more P27 in the market," Pinol said in a press conference in Quezon City on Tuesday.
Pinol said they are still expecting 500 million metric tons of rice after January 2019. "And that would be the last imported NFA rice," he added.
This statement came after he announced that NFA rice will be imported. But he clarified that the private sector can import rice.
"Local production cannot supply the 100 percent requirements of the country and that is precisely why we are importing," Pinol said.
The agriculture chief said they are not sure if they can sell government-subsidized rice but once they start selling again, it will be higher than the P27 per kilo price which he called "unrealistic".
"We will have to await for the report of the technical working group, which is studying it right now," he said.
"But one thing is certain, there will be no more P27 rice," he added.
According to the technical working group, NFA rice might be sold at P35 to P36 per kilo.
"We are not even sure yet if we will still be selling rice in the market.We are not sure of that. We will have to wait for the technical working group and we need to study the proposed law," Pinol said.
Pinol assured they are not competing with commercial rice at this kind of price.
He said there might be instances they will be selling NFA rice to "refresh" their stocks.
"Because we cannot just stock (the rice) there. If there is no calamity, we have to mill and sell it. At what price? That will be discussed in the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations)," he said.
The Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or RCEF under the Rice Tarrification Bill is waiting for the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte. Once signed, Pinol said they have 15 days to come up with Implementing Rules and Regulations. Under RCEF, NFA will only be a "buffer stock" agency.
Possible selling and the price of NFA rice will be under the IRR. He added rice prices will not be an "issue" by next year.
They are also expecting the rice supply to rebound by next year around 4.7 million metric tons in January to June 2019 from 4.46 million metric tons in the same period this year.
On concerns of making food prices cheaper for the Filipino, Agriculture Undersecretary Segrefedo Serrano said it should be a joint effort of all government agencies.
"The poor will have to be subsidized through the social programs of the government," Serrano said.
Pinol said 10 million poor families are beneficiaries of the DSWD's conditional cash transfer program. Ella Dionisio/DMS