MANILA, Philippines — Government agencies can’t agree on whether the country has enough rice, with the National Food Authority warning that imports approved last month won’t be enough to build a buffer and the Department of Agriculture saying no shortages of the staple should be expected.
NFA spokesperson Mayette Ablaza said their computations show inadequate stocks for a buffer, thus “we have to stretch stocks hanggang dumating importation (until imports arrive at the) end of July.”
An interagency council approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice through purchases from private traders, rejecting the NFA’s recommendation of government-to-government deals.
While it didn’t complaint at first, the NFA now says the volume will only be good for seven days.
There should be a 15-day buffer stock for the non-lean season and 30 days during the lean months.
The NFA says the price of well-milled rice has already gone up by P1 per kilo but the agency can’t intervene because it only has 20,000 bags available at its Visayas Avenue warehouse, well below the 100,000 bags a year earlier.
Officials said the current stocks will be released only during calamities.
But Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said people shouldn’t expect shortages.
He pointed out that the NFA’s buffer stock “does not mean national stock.”
He added that the harvest for the first quarter of the year has just finished, “so kung pag–uusapan natin supply ng bigas (so if we talk about the supply of rice), there’s not going to be a shortage of rice supply.”
Imports, on the other hand, are expected to start arriving by the end of next month and shipments will continue until September.
The Office of the Cabinet Secretary said as of last week, households were still holding stocks good for 44 days while rice in commercial warehouses was enough for 28 days.