NFA clarifies ‘underspending’ claim of Evasco
National Food Authority administrator Jason Aquino today clarified that the agency is not “underspending” because it even had to resort to borrowings to support bulk of its budget for operations.
This was his reaction to the statement of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco that 12 agencies under him, including NFA, are “not using the budget allocated to them.”
“The truth is that NFA has been prudently spending its limited resources. For this year, we proposed rice importation of 1.1 million metric tons to fulfill our food security and stabilization mandate based on the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) directive for NFA to maintain food security buffer stocks good for 15 days at any given time, and for 30 days by July 1 or the onset of the leans months for rice,” Aquino said.
However, the NFA Council, chaired by Evasco, approved only 250,000 MT of rice imports for NFA in 2017, which was the balance of the 500,000 MT approved rice importation for 2016.
Aquino explained that because of the low volume of importation, NFA had to recalibrate its spending. The agency instituted austerity measures, cutting down on controllable expenses such as travel, rentals, utilities, etc., and prioritizing programs and projects that will give optimum benefits to rice farmers and consumers.
“Because of our very low inventory, the NFA is now finding it hard to stabilize reported price spikes in commercial rice especially in Metro Manila markets. Making the basic staple, rice, continuously available, affordable and accessible for the people is really part of the essence of “Kilusang Pagbabago” under the Duterte administration which aims to bring poverty down from 26 to 14 percent of the population at the end of his term,” Aquino said.
For 2017, the NFA targets to buy some 3 million bags of palay at P17/kilogram. But as of November 30, the NFA has only bought 566, 121 bags or barely 18 percent of target because private traders were buying at much higher prices of P18-P22/kg.
“The NFA is doing every possible means to increase its local palay procurement to ensure reasonable income for our farmers. But with our present support price, we cannot force our farmers to sell to us when they can earn higher income by selling to private traders. However, the mere presence of NFA in the market influences traders to buy higher so they could corner their own target share of our local palay produce,” Aquino said.