National Food Authority lacks funds to buy palay-- Butil

THE farmers party-list group Butil lamented yesterday the National Food Authority (NFA) lacks the funds, the logistics and the facilities to undertake its new mandate of buying of palay for its supposed new role of buffer stocking for national emergencies.

The NFA is in an “underwhelming state” and is hobbled by financial, logistical and personnel morale problems and it needs propping up to be able to undertake its new mandate under the new rice import liberalization regime, said Butil Rep. Cecil Chavez.

Chavez made the observation after the Department of Agriculture (DA) released the details of the amended implementing rules for the rice import liberalization law, which tasked the NFA to buy “ all-year-round” from farmers for buffer stocking purposes.

“Much as we want the NFA to indeed buy palay from farmers at prices above the production cost, we cannot just see how a diminished NFA can do that role effectively,” she said.

Chavez said the NFA has no funds for palay buying, lacks the facilities to undertake palay buying and lack the silos and related facilities for the storage of the palay acquired.

The lawmaker said she supports the continued existence of the NFA and supports any and all efforts to assign the NFA with palay-buying functions.”

But the reality is the NFA cannot do that function unless it is strengthened as an institution, she said.

Chavez noted that the grand agenda of the rice import liberalization law is to eliminate the NFA and its palay buying and rice selling functions.

“So how does NFA get a fresh mandate if the effort of the law was focused on the elimination of NFA and its supposed trade-distorting effect on the rice trade,” she asked.

Chavez said that farmers’ organizations across the country should unite to monitor the promises of government on the safety nets and  support mechanisms to rice farmers under the new regime unlimited rice importation.

“We have been through grand promises from government before. Only to find out that the grand promises have never translated into workable and viable safety net programs,” she said.