TACLOBAN CITY — The National Food Authority (NFA) in the region is expecting to receive 12,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice from Vietnam and Thailand starting June.
NFA Regional Director Henry Tristeza said the allocation will be coming from the 250,000 MT of rice purchased through government-to-government scheme.
The 12,000 MT of rice is equivalent to 240,000 bags.
“The new shipment will ensure us enough rice supply for at least six days if NFA will be the only source of staple food. That is not the case because we have enough stocks from commercial traders and households,” Tristeza said.
The volume is only a small fraction of the 60-day buffer stocks target as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The incoming stocks is expected to bring down the price of commercial rice in the market with the availability of NFA rice at only P27 and P32 per kilogram (kg), said Tristeza.
The NFA regional chief admitted the absence of NFA rice in the market contributed to the increase in the price of commercial rice in the region from an average of P40 per kg to P45 per kg.
For Rebecca Sulibaga, 44, from Barangay Lunang in the island town of Almagro, Samar, the higher prices of rice makes life difficult for their family of six supported by her husband’s PHP300 daily income from fishing.
“Now that rice is expensive, we have no choice, but to cut our budget for other food items, education, and fare. Another option is to borrow money from our friends and relatives,” Sulibaga said.
Pedicab driver Raul Piga, 35, from Youngfield village in this city said their hand-to-mouth existence has worsened as prices of basic food items such as rice went up.
“A big chunk of our budget goes to buying rice. Most of the time, our side dish is just lawlaw,” Piga said.
Lawlaw or fish paste is a kind of tiny sardine buried and preserved in salt, commonly eaten by impoverished families who have no other alternative to enhance the taste of rice.
The NFA has stopped selling rice in the six Eastern Visayas provinces last February due to dwindling stocks.
For the second batch of 250,000 MT of imported rice which was bid out through government-to-private (G2P) scheme this week, will bring another 12,000 mt of rice to the region.
NFA will announce winning bidder before end of May.
The government attempted to replenish stocks through the import of 250,000 MT but bidding failed in the last week of April.
The country reopened offers from the governments of Vietnam and Thailand early of May.
The NFA is sticking to its target of having the rice imports in the country within June. (with reports from PRINCESS ROSETTE CABONEGRO and CHANDA MAE DIALINO, OJTs)