Thursday, October 2, 2008

National Food Authority (NFA) Lost Billions?

A militant farmers group said the National Food Authority (NFA) lost billions in its rice importation program that will hurt local farmers.

The Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (Humabol) said that the Arroyo administration is expected to import 2.296 metric tons of rice this year.

Based on the estimated NFA stock inventory as of July 1, 929,337 metric tons are imported rice which accounts for 97.99 percent of the NFA stock.

While the NFA targets imports to reach 971,145 metric tons, the planned rice grain procurement during the same period is only 51,238 metric tons.

Quoting from a primer of the NFA Employees Association, Humabol said the price of imported rice is more expensive than domestic rice

Humabol said the rice importation has greatly contributed to the NFA's losses especially with the imposition of the rice import tariff.

Even the Department of Finance said that losses of the NFA may reach P43.1 billion if the price of rice in the world market increases to more than $1,000 per metric ton.

Citing NFA sources, Humabol said the Arroyo government's rice importation program is in compliance with its commitment to the World Trade Organization. Under its minimum access volume, the country is obliged to import a certain volume of rice whether or not there is a supply shortage.           

According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), poor farmers cannot afford to sell their produce to the NFA and cannot avail of the subsidy on fertilizers.

Willy Marbella, KMP secretary general, said landless peasants have to pay for land rent, interest payments for debts they incurred, and also have to shoulder all the expenses in production.

Even with the NFA's mobile procurement program, Marbella said poor farmers cannot sell their produce to the NFA because they have nothing more to sell.

He said their produce goes to the trader from whom they loaned the seeds and fertilizers. 

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