Duterte orders NFA to buy locally grown rice

Ruth Abbey Gita

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, September 4, directed the National Food Authority (NFA) to purchase rice from local farmers at a relatively reasonable price.

Duterte gave the order as he acknowledged the adverse impact of the entry of imported rice in the market following the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act.

"You know, in the democracy, officials are elected. And their duty is to do for the greatest good, for the greatest number. You have seen people going wild, others hungry because there is no rice," the President said in a press conference.

"What the solution should be or will be for the Secretary of Agricutlure to buy all. Magkano ba presyo nila? Magkano presyo nila, bilhin natin. Lugi? Lugi talaga (How much their rice is? Let's buy their harvest. It would be a loss? It would really be a loss). Are we wasting money? No. We are not wasting an industry. We're helping an industry," he added.

In February this year, Duterte signed RA 11203 to ease import restrictions on rice and improve the supply in the country after the price of rice was blamed largely for the elevated inflation in 2018.

However, the importation of cheaper commercial rice caused farmgate prices of palay (unmilled rice) to drop to P6 to P10 per kilo, prompting 200,000 of them to abandon the food production industry.

Following his latest order, Duterte reminded local farmers to avoid demanding for "unreasonable" price of the staple, telling them that Agriculture Secretary William Dar would not allow that.

"You cannot demand a price. You arrive at a compromise of how much you are willing to lose a little bit," he said.

"Tapatan lang. Basta hindi malugi yung pagod nila (We'll help you so your efforts will not be wastedl. But they are compensated. But do not demand a price that is unreasonable because I am sure Secretary Dar would never go into that kind of arrangement," he added.

Earlier Wednesday, Dar said his agency was planning to impose non-tariff measures, including the new sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, to help local farmers cope with the entry of imported rice into the country.

Dar also suggested that instead of a subsidy, the government should distribute local rice to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). (SunStar Philippines)