Diverted NFA funds could've padded rice stocks - advocate


Posted at Aug 30 2018 10:28 AM

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If the National Food Authority had not diverted funds to pay its debts, it could have bought rice from farmers and increased rice stocks, preventing the need to import grain, an agriculture advocate said Thursday. 

The NFA is supposed to buy rice from farmers at P17 per kilo, mill it and sell it at P27 to P32 -- cheaper than commercial grain retailing for P43 to P55 per kilo. However, the agency last year diverted some P5 billion from its budget to pay debt instead of padding its rice stocks, a Commission on Audit report said. 

NFA paid off debts again this year using its P7-billion fund for rice procurement, claimed Rosendo So, chairman of agriculture advocacy group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag). 

In total, the NFA's funds can buy some 436 million kilos of local rice, which could extend buffer stocks by 13 more days, he told radio DZMM.

"Hindi [sana] tayo import nang import," he said. 

(We would not have needed to keep on importing rice.) 

Some 130,000 sacks of rice imported from Thailand were discovered last week to be infested with "bukbok" or weevils. The incident comes amid a rice shortage that prompted a state of calamity in Zamboanga City. 

Sinag on Wednesday filed a technical malversation case against NFA Administrator Jason Aquino and another official in connection with the fund diversion. 

DZMM, 30 August 2018