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Koko slams NFA Council: Kaka-away niyo nagugutom ang tao!

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Filipinos currently suffer rice crisis because of the “missteps” by the government-run National Food Authority (NFA), Senator Koko Pimentel said on Friday.

He also said that the lack of rice supply was aggravated by the greediness of rice traders and smugglers who manipulate the price of rice.

“The belated action of the NFA Council to import rice to supply rice to areas with rice shortages in Mindanao and its failure to increase the buying price of palay are examples of ‘policy paralysis’ that have rendered the body ineffective,” Pimentel said.

He said that the proposed rice tarrification bill would be the “long-term solution” to the rice supply problems that have contributed to rising inflation rates.

Pimentel, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, made remark as inflation for the month of August hit a nine-year high of 6.4%.

He said that replacing the quantitative restrictions on rice importation with tariffs and allowing the private sector to import rice would prevent the rice supply fluctuations the country.

“Right now we depend on the judgment of several government officials who are tasked to determine how much rice we should import, and when we should import it,” he said.

He was referring to the inter-agency NFA Council, which is composed of the NFA Administrator (Jason Aquino) and representatives from government agencies and institutions like the National Economic Development Authority, the BSP, and the Office of the President.

“The mandate appears simple enough, but so many factors prevent them from fulfilling their mandate properly,” Pimentel said.

“When they have disagreements and cannot get along, crucial policy decisions are delayed, and when this happens, it is consumers who literally pay the price––who literally pay higher prices for an important food staple like rice,” he said.

With the private sector involved in rice importation, Pimentel said businessmen will bring in rice when the market requires it, and not when there is an abundant supply in the market.

“They will try to find the best prices so they can sell their product at competitive rates while ensuring profits for themselves,” Pimentel said.

At the same time, the tariffs collected from importing rice will go directly to farmers.

“So, we can help them produce rice efficiently and cheaply, thereby improving their capacity to compete and be profitable,” Pimentel said.

“This is a win-win measure for both farmer and consumer,” the senator from Cagayan de Oro said.

On Wednesday, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. identified rice as one of the culprits behind inflation.

He explained that the “confluence of cost-push factors continue to drive consumer price inflation in August beyond the acceptable target range.”

“Much of it has to do with food supply shocks. Rice in particular. These warrant more decisive non-monetary measures to fully address.” Espenilla said.