NFA remains foremost assurance of food security
The news item, “US business groups urge PH to lift trade barriers” (Business, 11/10/14), reported that the US Grains Council “urged the need to abolish the National Food Authority and let private traders do most of the importation to cover local grain production shortfalls.” In the next paragraph, the report quoted the same council as saying, “the (Philippine) agribusiness sector is dominated by oligopolies whose private interests are intertwined with special interests groups and close ties with government.”
On the one hand, this foreign group urges the privatization of our country’s premier food agency (NFA); on the other hand, it is alarmed by the dominance of private interests (oligopolies) in our country’s agribusiness sector.
Allow us then to separate the grain from the chaff. The US Grains Council is utterly mistaken in urging for the abolition of the NFA and its eventual takeover by private rice importers as the solution to local grain production shortfalls. The abolition of the NFA and its privatization are a clear and present danger—forewarned by no less than this foreign group—to the food security of our country because of two main factors: In the event of rice price and supply volatility, there will be no more government intervention in the rice market; and big rice businesses, from profiteers to cartels, will dominate this lucrative rice industry.
For example, in August this year, the supply of NFA rice was inadequate in spite of the high volume of stored rice stocks in private warehouses. Because of this situation, greedy rice traders in their usual voracious character increased rice prices—from P34 per kilo, the price could have reached P50 per kilo if not for the timely intervention of the NFA.
At present, the NFA effectively asserts itself at the gamut of rice price and supply market. While this agency is engaged in the process of, hopefully, meaningful fiscal and organizational reforms, it remains the foremost assurance that food security is realized. An entity such as the NFA, which provides quality but affordable staple food to over a third of the Philippine population, should be strengthened instead of being abolished.
national president, National Food
Authority Employees Association,
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