MANILA - The National Food Authority does not need to import rice every time it needs to increase its buffer stock, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said Thursday, amid claims of rice shortage.
Piñol said cheap rice from local farmers are available in provinces outside of highly-competitive areas like Nueva Ecija where rice is sold at P19 a kilo.
"Antique, for example, ang bilihan diyan P12 per kilo, P10 pa minsan... Alam mo ang lapit ng Bicol sa 'tin pero ang palay doon ang mura, P14 per kilo," he told DZMM.
"Bakit hindi mag-concentrate ang NFA doon. Bakit tayo mamimili sa Central Luzon samantalang mataas ang presyo ng traders diyan. Pumunta kayo sa lugar kung saan mababa ang presyo," he added.
This way, the Agriculture chief said, the NFA will not only satisfy its buffer stock, it will also help local farmers.
Piñol clarified anew that there is no NFA rice shortage and only the agency's buffer stock went low. He stressed that the first-quarter harvest this year is projected to yield 3 million metric tons of palay, one of the highest in recent history.
The NFA last year failed to get the 250,000 metric tons of rice imports they requested for its buffer stock. Around 325,000 metric tons of imported rice programmed from 2017 is underway, the NFA council said.
Senator Cynthia Villar is seeking to hold an inquiry into the alleged NFA rice shortage.