MANILA - There is "no rice shortage" in the country even if the National Food Authority said its buffer was good for only 2 days, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Tuesday.
Piñol said commercial traders were fanning reports of an alleged shortage to "justify the entry of additional imported rice."
"Contrary to reports that there is a looming rice shortage because the Natonal Food Authority has not brought in imported rice, there is actually a huge inventory of locally harvested rice," Piñol said in a statement.
Buffer stocks are estimated to increase to 3 million metric tons or good for 96 days by the end March, he said.
"Rice traders who make money from importing rice are trying to scare government policy makers by making it appear that there is a rice shortage, to justify the entry of additional imported rice. It would also serve as a convenient excuse to increase the selling price of rice in the market which hurts Filipino consumers," Piñol said.
On Tuesday, NFA rice stocks fell to its lowest in a decade after the NFA Council failed to approve a request to import 250,000 metric tons of rice in November 2017.
As of Monday, there were only 65,200 metric tons of NFA rice, which would only last for 2 days. The agency is required to have a 15-day buffer stock at any given time.
The NFA imports rice and sells it between P27 and P32 per kilo, lower than commercial prices of P45 to P60 per kilo.
Farmers sell palay to commercial traders because the NFA can buy only up to P17 per kilo, when it costs P19 to P19.50, said James Magbanua, president of the Grains Retailers Confederation of the Philippines.
"Saan magbebenta ngayon yung farmers? Siyempre sa traders," he said.
(Where do the farmers sell? Of course to the traders.)