Recto mandates NFA to buy rice only from local farmers
By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, November 28, 2010-Sen. Ralph G. Recto, chair of the Senate ways and means committee said that he is seriously studying to scrutinize the inclusion of a special provision in the 2011 national budget requiring the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy rice only from local farmers instead of buying from Thailand or Vietnam.

Recto said that the NFA should buy locally in order to make it profitable for local farmers to plant rice pointing out that the said policy is intended for NFA not to import rice but to buy rice locally.

The NFA’s debt has ballooned to over P171 billion pesos in the month of May attributed to over-importation of rice where Recto issued his statements in the light of the said reports, adding that the NFA had not been allocated any budget for 2011, but was given a P2.5-billion allotment in the national budget next year.

The said fund is expected to purchase rice from local farmers as an incentive for them to plant more in their rice fields.

He said that local farmers will then find ways to improve farming through the use of technology. The government owes this to them since the farmers need all the help they can get after being adversely affected by a series of strong typhoons last year and this year.

“The alternative to my proposal is what we have today, which is an NFA that is indebted by over P171 billion. If we spent this on our farmers, then the country should have been exporting rice rather than over-importing,” Recto said, explaining that the special provision he studying is not an iron-clad prohibition against the importation of rice.

He furthered that the warrant of rice importation is necessary in some extraordinary circumstances like in times of calamities resulting in the damage of a majority of local rice lands or in times of extreme rice shortage in the country.

However, the Senator concluded that the policy should be to buy first from our local farmers and it should not be the exception. Recto stressed that he is always on the side of farmers who really need government aid at present. (Jason de Asis)