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Govt to pursue rice sufficiency

The government said Tuesday it will pursue the goal of attaining rice sufficiency, despite the additional importation of the commodity this year.

Presidential Assistant for Food Security Francis Pangilinan issued the statement after President Benigno Aquino III announced the National Food Authority had a standby authority to import an additional 500,000 metric tons of rice this year.

“The decision to import is to address the current need to ensure steady supply and is not connected with our desire to attain self-sufficiency. That goal will continue,” Pangilinan said.

The 500,000 metric tons would be on top of the 800,000 metric tons of rice imports expected to be completed by the end of August.

The volume was in addition to the 500,000 metric tons recently approved by the National Food Authority Council.

“The standby authority to import additional 500,000 metric tons can be exercised, should it be necessary to ensure the stable supply of affordable rice,” Pangilinan said.

“The standby authority covers up to 500,000 metric tons but it may or may not be exercised. Assuming it is exercised, it may be less than the ceiling of 500,000,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan said the additional importation would depend on conditions, such as typhoon damage and the impact of El Niño dry spell.

A group of farmers, however, said the government should justify the additional rice imports.

“It’s okay to import as long as the government justifies the importation,” said Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura executive director Jayson Cainglet.

Cainglet said the government should make sure the rice imports would not arrive during the harvest season.

“For the past months, our farmers enjoyed good prices. If the imports arrive this coming harvest season, it will affect palay prices and our farmers will suffer,” Cainglet said.

Rice prices surged early this year, after the national stock fell below the ideal 90-day inventory, following the onslaught of typhoons in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The Philippines aimed to achieve rice sufficiency as early as 2012, a goal that was not accomplished because of the typhoons and lack of irrigation infrastructure.

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