House probe on NFA rice supplies, prices sought

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

Rep. Michael Romero today called for a House inquiry into the rice supplies and skyrocketing prices of the staple due to a reported suspension of the sale of rice by the National Food Authority due to limited buffer stocks.

 

He filed a resolution calling for the urgent and immediate convening and conduct of an investigation, in aid of legislation and in the exercise of congressional oversight functions, into the current lack of supply of NFA rice in the public markets, which led to rising prices.

 

Romero of the 1-PACMAN partylist and assistant majority leader, said the probe would be jointly conducted by the Committees on Agriculture and Food and Poverty Alleviation, and the Special Committee on Food Security, which will ascertain whether or not the suspension or the supposed cartel operations within and outside of the NFA in an effort to artificially create a shortage to jack up prices for rice is really at work at the retail level.

 

Incumbent NFA Administrator Jason Aquino said that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that the “slight increase in rice prices at this time happens each year, during this same period, not because of external influences such as tax measures but as a natural consequence of the lack of harvest and the sale of newly-milled stocks bought at higher prices.”

 

During the investigation, the committees can conduct a swift and initial audit of the NFA rice inventories and its administrative and accounting controls and the importation procedures at the Bureau of Customs, involving those inventories.

 

“It is my hope that the investigating committees will determine whether or not the recurring rice supply shortage and price hikes over the past five to ten years is the result of anti-consumer and anti-farmer manipulation of the country’s rice supply and prices,” Romero said.

 

This investigation is consistent with the priority of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and of the 17th Congress on fighting and weeding out graft and corruption in government.

 

The NFA is the government agency tasked to ensure national food security and stabilize supply and prices of staple cereals both in the farm and consumer levels and to regulate the importation of rice, corn and other cereals, procure rice and maintain buffer stocks of rice to ensure the availability of affordable rice to the Filipino people, especially the poor.

 

According to the NFA its inventories of rice this January 2018 are now limited and there is the possibility that they would be able to supply consumers with NFA rice. 

 

The NFA has said that, “between December 2017 and January 2018, the retail price of well-milled rice increased by only about P0.11/kg, from an average of P42.26 to P42.37/kg on the national level and P1/kg in Metro Manila, from P40 to P41/kg. For regular-milled rice, the price increase was about P0.19/kg, from P38.05 to P38.24/kg on the national average and higher by P0.50/kg for Metro Manila, from P37-P37.50/kg.”

 

The NFA further disclosed this January 2018, that its “review of the monthly and annual trend in prices from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice tend to increase by P1-P2/kilogram between December and February.”  (END)

 

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