March 08, 2017 (by Business World)
THE National Food Authority (NFA)is looking to import around 800,000 metric tons (MT) of rice this year under a government-to-government arrangement to cover the lean months in the third quarter.
Workers unload sacks of rice at a warehouse of the National Food Authority. -- AFP
Citing “critical” stock levels of the staple grain in government warehouses, NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino said that, as of March 8, inventory in government warehouses was 400,000 MT, good for about 13 days. Stocks have thus fallen below the 15-day buffer stock the agency is mandated to maintain.
“If we are to maintain a 30-day buffer, more or less we will need 800,000 metric tons,” he said in Filipino. Asked if that quantity will be satisfied by imports, he said “Yes, so we can satisfy the 30-day buffer stock.”
“Other regions and provinces are at critical supple levels,” he added. “Some places will have very tight supply by April and May,” Mr. Aquino said in a Wednesday news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Quezon City. He was citing reports from NFA regional directors across the country.
“By end of June, the NFA’s buffer stock will be short three days. That’s why we are pushing for the approval of the 250,000 MT importation... We need to utilize by June this year the remaining standby volume to cover the gap in our 15-day buffer stock requirement,” he added.
However, as the July to September period covers the lean months during which the state-run agency is required to maintain a 30-day buffer stock, Mr. Aquino said that this may translate to an 800,000 MT requirement, making more imports necessary beyond the approved standby authority.
Asked if Mr. Aquino will propose the importation of the 800,000 MT volume to the NFA Council, he replied in the positive, adding that the arrival of a portion of these imports, specifically the remaining 250,000 MT standby authority, is intended for before the lean months start.
In a text message yesterday, NFA Spokesperson Marietta J. Ablaza said that the 250,000 MT of rice is proposed to arrive April or May “to have ample time to position the stocks before onset of lean supply months.”
Last year, the inter-agency NFA Council approved the importation of 500,000 MT of rice under a government-to-government scheme, giving the agency standby authority in preparation for last year’s El Niño.
Of this total, only 250,000 MT has been activated with the top exporting countries, Vietnam and Thailand, clinching the bid.
The remaining portion, however, has not been shipped due to sufficient stocks of rice in both government and private warehouses when the dry spell proved to be less severe than expected.
As early as December, NFA proposed the importation of the 250,000 MT, citing an expected shortfall in rice production due to typhoons Karen, Lawin, and Nina which hit the country last quarter.
The NFA Council did not approve the proposal amid the lack of endorsement by the inter-agency National Food Security Committee chaired by the National Economic Development Authority, which recommends to the council whether the country will need to import, based on rice inventory data. -- Janina C. Lim