The National Food Authority (NFA) will no longer be allowed to import rice for its buffer stocks when President Rodrigo Duterte signs the Rice Tariffication and Liberalization Bill soon, the Department of Agriculture said Thursday.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol said that instead, the NFA will be focused on the procurement of palay produced by Filipino farmers.
"This is a welcome development not only for the Filipino farmers but also for top officials of the Department of Agriculture and the NFA who advocate for a change in the image of the rice agency," Pinol said.
He said that through the years of its involvement in the rice importation program for buffer stocking, suspicions were rife that there were financial transactions involved where officials raked in money.
"The very tight importation requirements also led to corruption even in the awarding of import permits." the agri chief said.
On orders of Duterte, the importation requirements were eased up allowing the private sector now to bring in rice with less hassle.
"I have long advocated for local procurement even at a higher government support price because it assures our farmers of a market and stable income," Pinol said.
He said that for the DA, who was not spared from intrigues in the highly profitable business of rice importation, this will be a welcome relief.
In 2019, the NFA has allocated P7 billion for local palay procurement.
Photo by Geremy Pintolo/Philstar