By Stephanie Sevillano

WAREHOUSE INSPECTION. National Food Authority Administrator Larry Lacson leads the inspection of an agency warehouse in San Ildefonso, Bulacan on Friday (June 7, 2024). Lacson said the NFA has already hit 99 percent of its target palay procurement for the first half of the year, aided by higher buying price. (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

SAN ILDEFONSO, Bulacan – The National Food Authority (NFA) on Friday said its palay (unhusked rice) procurement for the first half of the year will reach 3.3 million bags, up from the earlier target of 3.08 million, due to its higher purchase price.

In an interview on the sidelines of a series of warehouse inspection here, NFA Administrator Larry Lacson said the agency has already hit 99 percent, or 3.290 million bags, of its new target as of June 5.

Grabe ang baba ng pinanggalingan natin (We came from a really low [volume]), 145,000 bags when we started the year. And then ngayon, nasa 3.290 million bags na tayo. So just imagine the jump, that’s why tuwang-tuwa kami, tumaas iyong ating buffer stock (now we’re at 3.290 million bags. So, just imagine the jump, that’s why we’re very happy. Our buffer stock increased),” Lacson said.

“For the first time in so many years, ma-mi-meet ng NFA iyong first half target niya (the NFA will hit its target for the first half [of the year]) and we’re poised to hit the annual target,” he added.

The 3.290 million bags of palely equates to around 136,000 metric tons (MT), or 136 million kilograms, of milled rice. The NFA needs to buy just 71,000 bags of palay in the remainder of June to reach its target.

“We are really catching up when I came in. Ang maganda ngayon, parang napaka-easy na to hit the target na ito. Kasi tinaas na nga natin [ang buying price] (The good thing now is it’s so easy to hit this target. That’s because we increased the buying price),” he said.

Since the NFA increased its buying price of wet palay to up PHP23/kg and up to PHP30/kg for clean and dry palay, farmers sell more of their produce to the agency.

Lacson, likewise expressed optimism in meeting the overall 495,000 MT of target palay purchase for the year, or equivalent to 300,000 MT of national rice buffer stock.

“We are really confident that by wet season, mahi-hit din natin iyon. Iyong instruction ko sa baba, anuhin niyo na iyong requirement ni DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). Gilingin niyo na iyan, kunin na nila iyan (we will hit the target. My instructions on the ground: fulfill the requirement of DSWD, mill it, so they can get it) to make space for the incoming harvest,” he said.

For 2025, the NFA plans to increase its procurement to 545,000 MT of palay to cover both the 300,000 MT rice buffer stock requirement, alongside its commitment to the rice research of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Sufficient buffer stock

Meanwhile, Lacson assured that the current four-day national buffer stock is sufficient in terms of requirement for calamities and the looming La Niña.

Hindi naman tayo sinasalanta ng bagyo na buong-buong Pilipinas. Eh sapat na sapat po iyan, aside sa stocks natin, [mayroon pa] sa mga household (The whole country has never been affected in its entirety by a typhoon. So, that’s very sufficient, aside from our stocks, there are still rice the households),” he said.

As an example, he estimated that the current buffer stock can sustain the rice needs of National Capital Region for over a month should it be placed under a state of calamity. (PNA)