House review of ‘agri systems’ for rice production urged
I recently met with the provincial manager of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Camarines Sur, Yolanda R. Navarro. In that meeting, she appealed for our support to ensure that the NFA can fulfill its mandate of serving as government’s food security watchdog. She also disclosed that as of April 30, 2017, the rice stock of NFA-Camarines Sur stood at 42,293 bags—good for only three days given the province’s daily consumption level of 13,840 bags.
This made me surmise that other provinces could be similarly situated. So I did some research.
Every year for the past 16 years, we lacked on the average 1.27 million metric tons (MT) vis-à-vis our total annual average consumption of 11.6 million MT.
From the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, we found out that we can produce enough rice for food consumption, but the current level of production is still not sufficient to meet the
total demand when we consider the need for seeds, feeds and processing.
Since 2000, we have been importing an annual average of 1.3 million MT. Without importation, our supply of rice will not be sufficient to meet the demand for total consumption.
Aside from meeting consumption demand, our government, through the NFA, must maintain a buffer stock for emergencies to forestall any supply shortfall in times of calamities and abnormal situations. The need for a buffer stock is critical, particularly during the lean months (July to September) which, coincidentally, fall within the typhoon season.
Reports from the field, particularly from Camarines Sur, reveal that the current stock of rice available at the NFA warehouses can meet
rice demand up to end of May only. Which could be true with all the NFA warehouses nationwide, as well.
While there may be a bumper harvest this season, the NFA can’t procure palay from the farmers who prefer to sell their harvest to
private traders who offer higher prices.
There is also no assurance that the next cropping seasons will result in bumper harvests due to production uncertainties caused by pests, typhoons and other climatic forces.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao has an altogether different viewpoint. Citing government data, he noted the upward trend in palay production from 2011 to 2015. He was also quoted as saying that “there is no rice shortage. Rice is merely in the hands of the private sector.”
The good representative assailed the NFA’s so-called import mentality, stating—again citing government data—that “its actual purchase of palay from farmers is negligible compared to the total rice production, while its imports dwarf local products.”
I am, therefore, strongly suggesting that an inquiry, in aid of legislation, be conducted by the House committee on agriculture and food to settle this contentious issue once and for all. At the same time, a review on whether support systems for farmers from various government entities are still in place (and properly working) be done to ensure not only rice self-sufficiency but also food security for our people.
REP. GABRIEL H. BORDADO JR., Third District, Camarines Sur
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