GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 January) — The National Food Authority (NFA) has beefed up its emergency rice stocks here and nearby provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani with an additional 370,000 bags of imported rice from Vietnam.
Edegary Roncal, NFA Sarangani-General Santos City provincial manager, said the additional rice stocks were part of the area’s allocation or quota for this year under the agency’s rice importation program.
She said the imported rice stocks were unloaded by a cargo vessel from Vietnam on Wednesday at the Makar port here.
“These will augment our emergency or buffer stocks that are mainly utilized during calamities and for food security purposes,” the official said.
Roncal said the agency has allocated 150,000 bags to South Cotabato province and 220,000 bags to Sarangani and this city.
She said the rice stocks are now being delivered to NFA warehouses in this city, Koronadal City and other localities in the area.
“We so far assured of sufficient rice supplies to address possible shortages, especially during calamities and other emergency situation,” she said.
Amalia Jayag-Datukan, Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 12 executive director, had assured that the imported rice supplies stored in NFA warehouses in the region will only be used as emergency stocks.
Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
She said NFA offices in the area have stopped the distribution since last year of imported rice in the local markets in response to an earlier request from the Regional Development Council (RDC) to exclude the area from the rice importation program.
Datukan said the NFA has commissioned the entry of imported rice shipments to the area but stressed that they were limited or within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota.
MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce, such as rice, allowed to enter into the Philippines at reduced tariffs.
At present, the Philippines is allowing 350,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to enter the country annually at reduced tariff rate of 40 percent, while shipments outside MAV pay higher rates.
Last year, the RDC-12 asked the NFA’s Rice and Corn Council to review its rice importation process and set appropriate measures that would protect areas with sufficient rice production from the entry of imported rice products.
The RDC said the stocks of cheaper imported rice products that were monitored to have entered the markets in some parts of the region have affected the prices and distribution of locally-produced rice.
The council recommended that the NFA should refrain from further issuing importation permits “especially when the port of discharge is General Santos City since Region 12 is self-sufficient in rice.” (MindaNews)