President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase the country’s emergency buffer stock from 15 days to 30 days by buying more palay (unhusked rice) from farmers.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said the President made the directive during a meeting attended also by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III at the Malacañang Palace Wednesday night.
Dar said Duterte has directed the NFA to accelerate the turnover of its inventory by buying more palay and selling more regular milled rice at an average of 20,000 50-kilogram bags of rice per day.
Duterte, he added, also ordered to extend the unconditional cash transfer for small farmers affected by low palay prices from one to two years.
A total of PHP3 billion will be allocated for cash transfer extension that will benefit 600,000 farmers tilling one-half to two hectares of rice land every year.
To address the flooding of imported rice into the market to the detriment of Filipino rice farmers, Dar said the DA, through the Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI), will strictly implement the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC).
“For instance, the agency will conduct pre-inspection at the point of origin of imported rice stock to ensure rice quality and safety for consumers and at the same time protect the spread of crop pests and diseases,” he said.
The DA chief said Duterte fully supports all Filipino farmers and fishers “by empowering them to be more prosperous, as they contribute their share to ensuring food security for all our countrymen.”
“The President made it very clear that he strongly supports, in particular, Filipino farmers who are confronted with low palay prices this harvest season,” he said.
Dar said the country’s rice industry will continue to thrive with the implementation of the programs under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a component under the Rice Tariffication Law aimed at making Filipino farmers more efficient and productive so they can compete with their counterparts in Southeast Asia.
“The Rice Tariffication Law will be pursued to provide affordable and quality rice to all Filipinos,” he said. (PNA)