GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 02 March 2018) — At the February 27 Senate hearing, the senators heaped blame on the NFA (National Food Authority), particularly on Chairman Jayson L. Y. Aquino, for the shortage of NFA rice supply and for the price in the market to spike by announcing the shortage.
Is the blame justified?
A senator told Aquino to resign. Malacañan admonished NFA to do its work well. Are Aquino and the other NFA officials sleeping on their job?
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The primary mandate of the NFA is “… to stabilize the price of palay, rice and corn …” as stated in Section 1 of Republic Act 3452 creating the Rice and Corn Administration. This government policy, while originally the mandate of RCA, was absorbed by the National Grains Authority that abolished RCA and by the NFA from the NGA.
To carry out this policy, the original mandate was to purchase palay and corn directly from the farmers; added later was the importation or rice to augment the required level of NFA stock. The NFA “… shall sell and dispose of these commodities to the consumers at areas of consumption at a price that is within their reach”.
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The policy is good. But has NFA the resources and power to implement it?
To carry out the policy, NFA is mandated to compete with rice traders and middlemen by (1) purchasing palay and corn directly from the farmers and (2) selling the rice and corn at prices within the reach of the consumers.
But does NFA have enough funds, facilities and flexibility to compete? At present, NFA purchasing price of palely is limited to P17 kilo and sells regular milled rice at P27 per kilo and well-milled rice at P32. Farmers have to take their palay to NFA buying stations
On the other hand, rice traders and middlemen have more funds and flexibility. They buy palay directly from the farms at prices higher than the NFA price – raising or lowering their prices according to the demand of the competition. Evidently, they dictate the prices both at the farms and in the market.
Evidently, too, concerning palay, the traders and middlemen, outbuy NFA quantity-wise and quality-wise. Since they buy directly from the farms, they corner the good-quality palay. It is most probable that what the traders and middlemen reject the farmers take to the NFA buying stations. Hence, in the market, NFA rice is just for Class D and E consumers estimated at 10 million out of the more than 100 million Filipinos.
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So far NFA is a non-factor in regulating the prices of palay at the farms and rice in the market. The NFA mandate is mandate to fail.
Since the Senate hearing was in aide of legislation, the senators should have focused on the NFA mandate rather than on blaming Aquino and other officials for the failure of NFA to maintain its rice stock and its mission as mandated. The same must be said of Malacañang.
Unless NFA is given the resources and flexibility to compete in the open market, it will fail in its mandated mission. Better to abolish it. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Patriicio P. Diaz was editor in chief of the Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City and later the Mindanao Kris. He is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his ‘commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator, and Peace Advocate.’ You may e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)