In a statement issued today, Action for Economic Reforms (AER) strongly opposed the approved proposal initiated by the National Food Authority (NFA) for government to spend P8 billion to import an additional 300,000 metric tons of rice to boost the country’s rice inventory.  The budget will be given to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) which will do the purchase via government-to-government procurement scheme.

“Farmers are about to harvest and reports on the ground say it is a good harvest season.  It is improper for government to spend billions of pesos to import rice. Let the private sector do the importation to fill in the inventory if needed.  It will do a better job than a government-government arrangement which is prone to waste and corruption.  That’s the whole point of shifting the protection of the rice sector from quotas to tariffs via the Rice Tariffication Law.  It will be foolhardy to go back to having government do the importation,” said AER president Jessica Reyes-Cantos.

Moreover, Cantos pointed out that the PhP 8 billion will be better spent toward increasing our farmers’ productivity and safeguarding their welfare given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The money, for example, can be used to directly purchase our farmers’ produce.  We were informed that our farmers in Sorsogon have lots of fruits and vegetables harvested which are just given away as there are no wholesale buyers because of the distance from Metro Manila. DA may partner with local groups to broaden its reach and not be concentrated in high production areas where traders are active. Let’s help our poor hardworking farmers and their families,” Cantos added.

Meanwhile, Eduardo “Ka Ed” Mora, President of the Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magsasaka ng Pilipinas, reminded government that it is important that the NFA is given enough funds to procure palay from farmers. He likewise pleaded for some flexibility in the cash assistance for farmers to include those owning two or even three hectares and below, and those who have been affected by typhoon Tisoy.

“Their farms were destroyed, and some irrigation systems were likewise damaged by the typhoon.  Perhaps some cash-for-work arrangement can also be done for them to be mobilized to repair the damaged irrigation facilities,” he said. (END)