By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday questioned the National Food Authority’s (NFA) rice supply shortage when government data showed an increase in palay production over the past two years.
“It is downright bewildering to allegedly have a record-breaking surplus in rice supply on one hand and experience a low inventory of rice in the warehouses of NFA on the other hand and thereby needing to import rice,” Poe said.
Poe joined her colleagues in the Upper Chamber in pushing for an investigation on the low supply of cheap NFA rice.
She filed Senate Resolution No. 623 directing the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar, to investigate the purported shortage of affordable rice that is driving up prices of commercial rice in the markets.
Villar earlier filed a similar measure regarding the issue. The Senate panel will start its hearing on February 27.
Poe, in pushing for the probe, cited that Philippine Statistics Authority late last month recorded 9.36-percent increase in the rice production in 2017.
A total of 19.28 million metric tons of palay was produced in 2017, from the 17.63 million metric tons produced in 2016.
She also recalled that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol expects the Philippines to reach a “record-breaking” three million metric tons in the first quarter of 2018.
Poe, likewise, said she aims to look into allegations that a syndicate exists in the NFA and supposedly manipulates rice data.
She wanted the inquiry to determine the veracity of “persistent allegations” of a mafia, syndicate or “rice cartel” in the government’s rice procurement and importation program.
She stressed this was necessary to end illegal and corrupt practices and ensure the availability of the staple food.