Abolition of NFA won’t solve crisis

MILITANTS and employees of the National Food Authority (NFA) said the abolition of the agency will not solve the rice crisis and will even result in the increase of the price of the grain.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) even wanted a stronger role for NFA, which it wanted to buy up to 25 percent of the national palay output instead of 10 percent that its charter mandates.

The NFA was established in 1972 by then President Ferdinant Marcos to ensure that price fluctuations of rice would not harm the poor.

Rex Estoperez, NFA public affairs chief, said administrator Lito Banayo is not going to preside over the abolition of the agency, which has reportedly racked up P177 billion in losses over the years.

Sen. Francis Escudero and other senators are reportedly opposed to the idea of dismantling NFA because of the strategic importance of rice, which is eaten practically by 95 percent of the nation’s population.

Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations (Philcongrains) president Herculano “Joji” Co also expressed displeasure over the prospect of NFA abolition.

However, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been urging government to stop the bleeding of the agency by dismantling it.

Banayo’s disclosure that the Philippines is “swimming in rice” and the recent overhaul of regional directors gave resurrected talks about the abolition of NFA.

Dr. Ramon Clarete of the University of the Philippines has argued that the agency had not functioned in accordance with its mandate since the rice it has been selling only benefited 25 percent of its intended market.

He said 48 percent of rice from NFA allegedly ends up in the warehouses of traders, who rebag the rice and pass it off as commercial rice for a substantial profit. Ian Go

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