GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/09 August) — The National Food Authority (NFA) in Region 12 has stopped the distribution of imported rice in various markets here and other parts of the region in response to an earlier request from the Regional Development Council (RDC) to exclude the area from the rice importation program.
Amalia Jayag-Datukan, Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 12 executive director, said the NFA has already recalled their releases and scrapped their distribution program for imported rice in compliance with the RDC 12’s request.
“No imported rice products have been so far entering or being sold in our markets,” she said in a press conference.
Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
Datukan said the NFA recently 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.
“We currently have some imported rice supplies but they’re part of our standby stocks for emergency or food security purposes,” Datukan said.
Based on a stock inventory report released by NFA-12, its combined standby imported and local rice stocks as of last July 31 stood at 112,090 bags.
Region 12 has total available rice stocks of 841,669 bags, which would last for 39 days based on the area’s daily consumption requirement of 21,398 bags.
The area’s rice stocks comprised 281,705 bags at the NFA warehouses, 419,753 bags at the households and 140,211 bags at commercial rice outlets.
The RDC-12 earlier 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 move was an offshoot of the reported entry in the local markets in October 2012 of around 3,000 MT tons of imported rice from Vietnam through the Makar Port here.
The RDC said the stocks of cheaper imported rice products that were monitored to have entered the markets in some parts of the region late last year 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.”
“This is also to protect our farmers from unscrupulous rice traders,” the resolution said.
Region 12 currently ranks fifth in the entire country in terms of rice production and had recorded a total surplus of 132,354 MT in 2012. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)