MANILA - The National Food Administration on Tuesday said it cannot resolve the shortage in government-subsidized rice unless an inter-agency council approves its request for grain importation.
Importation will replenish the stock of NFA rice, which is cheaper than commercial grain, after it was depleted by relief operations for victims of unrest and typhoons last year, agency spokesperson Becky Olarte told ABS-CBN News.
The NFA as early as November 2017 sought to import 250,000 metric tons of rice, but the NFA Council has yet to approve the request, she said.
Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. chairs the NFA Council, whose members include Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
As of Monday, there were only 65,200 metric tons of NFA rice, which would only last for 2 days. The agency is required to have a 15-day buffer stock at any given time, admitted Olarte.
The remaining NFA rice will go to depressed areas and island provinces instead of the market, she said.
"Pasensiya po, talagang walang magagawa ang NFA. Gustuhin man naming ipagpatuloy ang pagbebenta ng mababang presyo ng bigas e paubos na po ang stocks," Olarte told the public.
(We are sorry, but the NFA cannot do anything. Even if we want to continue selling cheaper rice, our stock is almost gone.)
Regulators, she said, will meet with retailers on Wednesday to stop the reported price hike of commercial rice amid the NFA rice shortage.
Senator Cynthia Villar meanwhile had said she will call for a Senate investigation into the issue.