Reorganization returns NFA to control of DA
AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol will take over as chairman of the National Food Authority (NFA) council after a government reorganization that brought the NFA back under the control of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the presidential spokesman said.
“Since the NFA is again an attached agency of the DA, there is no need for the Office of the President to be in the Council,” Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said in televised briefing in Boracay on Tuesday, April 17.
Mr. Roque was referring to the NFA’s former status as an agency controlled by the Office of the President. The NFA Council’s former chairman was Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco, Jr.
In a statement, Mr. Piñol said that along with the NFA, “the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA)” will also be placed under the DA’s control.
“As Agriculture Secretary and on behalf of people working with me, we accept the added responsibility and challenge. The return of these three agencies to DA will further strengthen the department’s capability to undertake its mission to provide available and affordable food for the Filipino people,” Mr. Piñol said.
He said the DA will ensure that the NFA will build up its rice buffer stock to a level good for at least 60 days’ consumption, in accordance with a presidential directive.
Reuters reported that President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the NFA to build up its buffer stock to 60 days, by buying more locally produced grains and imported varieties.
It said a 60-day buffer stock is equivalent to a reserve of as much as 1.92 million tons. The NFA had an inventory of only 43,500 tons, or less than two days of national consumption, as of last month.
“Buy from the Filipino farmers first and if you cannot find sufficient stocks to be bought at the price approved by the NFA Council, that’s the time you source it through importation,” Mr. Duterte told NFA management on Monday night, according to Mr. Piñol.
In a meeting with the NFA Council, Mr. Duterte also directed Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III to help provide funds for NFA’s local rice procurement program, saying he would like the agency’s warehouses “filled to the roof” to ensure sufficient supply, Reuters quoted Mr. Piñol as saying.
The council, composed of government economic managers, has approved the purchase by the NFA of 250,000 tons via a tender open to international traders and suppliers, for delivery starting May, ahead of the lean season starting July.
The NFA is also set to buy another 250,000-ton shipment in a government-to-government deal with Vietnam or Thailand, for delivery starting next month.
Mr. Duterte also directed the NFA to increase its buying price for domestic rice to raise the buffer stock, Mr. Piñol said in a statement posted on his Facebook account.
According to Mr. Roque, the President announced the reorganization of the NFA Council during a meeting at the Palace on Monday, April 16.
At the meeting, the President also authorized “the importation of 250,000 MT through governmentto- government ( G2G) mode to replenish the rice inventory. Imported rice is set to arrive soon.”
Mr. Roque also said that a council member, the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), “has requested to be relieved from the Council, so that it may focus on its other projects, which request was approved. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will take the place of DBP.”
For his part, Mr. Evasco said: “I fully respect the decision of the President given the encompassing nature and impact of the National Food Authority on the Filipino people and the farmers.”
“We have put in place several policy guidelines that have provided a more transparent, competitive, inclusive and accountable system of procurement and distribution of NFA rice as a result of more than 20 council meetings since my designation by the President as NFA Council Chair.”
Mr. Evasco said he “believes that NFA can now move forward towards ensuring that corrupt, exclusive and debt-ridden practices during the past administrations will not reign in the next transactions to pass.”
A WORKER repacks imported rice grains at a National Food Authority warehouse in Quezon City.