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Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. NFA Should Buy More Locally-Grown Rice Instead of Relying on Imports
NFA Should Buy More Locally-Grown Rice Instead of Relying on Imports PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Sunday, 23 March 2008 07:21

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the government should intensify the production of rice instead of telling the people to reduce their consumption of the staple cereal.


Senator Pimentel cautioned Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap against insisting on his suggestion for people to cut down their rice consumption because this is the kind of reckless statement by administration officials that can incite public anger or uprising.

He said the agriculture chief’s suggestion only serves to contradict his claim that there is no shortage of this politically-sensitive commodity at the moment and even in the succeeding months.

“Secretary Yap’s advice to the people to reduce their rice intake reminds me of Marie Antoinette who, shortly before the French Revolution, famously said if the people had no bread to eat, they should eat cake,” Mr. Pimentel said.

He said such advice seems to betray his unfamiliarity with the eating habit of the typical, poor Filipinos, who will not mind having no viands on the dining table as long as there is enough rice and some salt.

“Secretary Yap’s advice to the people to reduce their rice intake reminds me of Marie Antoinette who said that 'if the people had no bread to eat, they should eat cake',” Mr. Pimentel said.
Mr. Pimentel lamented that the Philippines is still heavily dependent on rice imports to make up for deficiency in local palay production. He said this belies the administration’s claim that its much-ballyhooed “Ginintuang Ani” rice sufficiency program is reaping fruitful results.

This year alone, the government is importing 2.1-million metric tons of rice from Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. The Department of Agriculture targets rice production to reach 17.33 million metric tons, equivalent to a national sufficiency level of 92 percent.

Senator Pimentel said the NFA should beef up its rice stockpile by giving priority to the procurement of rice from local farmers, instead of relying too much on imports.

He noted that local farmers are always complaining that they are being ignored by the NFA in its rice procurement in favor of imports that only benefit the farmers from rice-exporting neighboring countries.

“The authorities find it more convenient to buy rice from other countries. Is it because they stand to gain a lot of money from this scheme?” the minority leader asked.

Senator Pimentel said it’s about time the government rethinks its rice-procurement policy in the light of the tight supply and soaring prices of this staple cereal in the world market. From $295 per metric ton last year, the price of rice has shot up more than $500 per MT this year, reports said.

He said the government stands to lose a lot of money from the transaction because it has to sell the imported rice to consumers at subsidized and low prices despite the expensive import cost of the commodity.

The minority leader said the problem is aggravated by the rampant practice of corrupt NFA officials to divert the agency’s rice stocks to grains cartels, which in turn, sell them at commercial rates of P26 per kilo or higher, instead of the authorized P18.25 per kilo.

Senator Pimentel said the problem is aggravated by the rampant practice of corrupt NFA officials to divert the agency’s rice stocks to grains cartels, which in turn, sell them at commercial rates.Senator Pimentel dared Secretary Yap to mount a relentless crackdown on NFA officials and employees, as well as grains traders, involved in the rice scam.

“He should get to the bottom of the illegal diversion and sale of NFA rice and punish the culprits whoever they are. Otherwise, people will suspect that he is involved or he is covering up this anomaly,” he said.

Senator Pimentel said the magnitude of the problem is clearly shown in the diversion of 120,000 metric tons of NFA rice to grains cartels in Northern Mindanao. # # #



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Last Updated on Sunday, 23 March 2008 07:24
 

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