By Rose Anne Dela Cruz
NATIONAL Food Authority Council Chairman Leoncio Evasco slammed the National Food Authority for statements that reportedly caused panic among rice traders and the consumers.
Evasco issues the critique after the NFA earlier said there is no more available state-subsidized rice for market distribution.
“There are so many voices, thereby, madly confusing the issue on rice. And creating panic on the part of the traders and consuming public of rice”, says Evasco in a palace press briefing. He further accuses the agency of creating “artificial shortage’ saying that this would eventually make the traders withdraw their rice resulting to market price hikes.
But the former priest and communist rebel turned government bureaucrat, in an apparent admission of the rice problem, also said that given the need for the rice importation, the government will use the ‘government to private’ or G2P type of rice procurement that was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte last year.
Earlier, President Duterte met with rice traders to appeal for consideration and fairness on the pricing of rice which is considered the staple food of the country.
North District Office Provincial District Manager Arnel Alfonso on Tuesday confirmed that the remaining rice bags in the NFA warehouses are not for market distribution. He said the remaining rice stocks are intended only for Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) beneficiaries and the agency’s employees’ as it is their rice allowance.
Alfonso’s confirmation prompted the NFAC to call the NFA, its executive arm, to procure more rice supplies from local farmers to address the depletion in the buffer stock.
The NFA previously decided to temporarily discontinue issuing state-subsidized rice to accredited retailers as it wanted to prioritize distributing rice to calamity victims.
Despite the depletion of the buffer stock, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said this should not be a cause of alarm for the public.
“During the last NFA council meeting, it was agreed that NFA could bring in the new stocks already,” said Piñol.
“No, walang rice shortage. There has never been rice shortage”, he stressed.
According to the agriculture chief, the stocks which were earlier projected to arrive as late as June may come earlier.
“I think the president will use his persuasive power to appeal to our rice traders that while he understands business and he knows the traders will have to make money, I think he will appeal that the margin of profit should be at the level that will not hurt the consumers and at the same time, that the farmers should benefit from their labor.” Piñol said
*Video © YouTube/Rose Anne Dela Cruz