Publish rice import permits, solon urges NFA

CEBU Rep. Eduardo Gullas urged the National Food Authority (NFA) to publish the complete details of every rice import permit issued to private traders and large end-users such as fast food chains to ensure absolute transparency and accountability.

“The NFA should post on its web site the details of every new rice import license issued to include the entity allowed to make the importation, the entity’s controlling owners, and the exact volume of the authorized shipment, among others,” Gullas said. “This will help discourage potential abuses moving forward.”

Gullas made the statement not long after Malacañang exposed a scam in which a highly favored group of traders cornered and profited from the importation of up to 200,000 metric tons of rice in the previous administration.

NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo later revealed that at least 10 fictitious farmers’ cooperatives, backed by a lone financier irregularly obtained rice import licenses in the past.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said earlier this week that the country would have to import up to 1.3 million tons of rice this year.

“Rice is an extremely sensitive commodity, both economically and politically. Government should be watchful in ensuring ample supply of the grain at fair and stable prices,” Gullas said.

Since December, Gullas noted that rice retail prices have increased by around five percent, after the NFA raised its selling price of the grain from P25 to P27 per kilo.

“The wild card in our rice supply is harsh climate change. Brutal weather conditions, be it severe flooding or a prolonged dry spell, can easily set back domestic production,” Gullas warned.

The same conditions could also upset the output of the world’s three leading rice exporters — Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan, he said.

“Extreme flooding in China, for instance, can easily tip the global balance of rice supply and demand, because China is a large importer of the grain,” Gullas added.

The Philippines imported almost 2.5 million tons of rice in 2010 due to “unprecedented supply issues.”

Banayo later claimed that the previous administration actually imported an excessive amount of rice last year.

The country is projected to produce 17.4 million tons of rice this year from a lower-than-expected 15.77 million tons in 2010, according to the DA.


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