Manila. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the country's food security agency to build up its rice buffer stock to the equivalent of 60 days of national consumption, by buying more locally-produced grains and imported varieties, the agriculture minister said on Tuesday (17/04).
A 60-day buffer stock would be equivalent to a reserve of as much as 1.92 million tonnes. The National Food Authority (NFA), the agency in charge of ensuring stable rice supply, had an inventory of only 43,500 tons, or less than 2 days of national consumption, as of last month.
The NFA is under increasing pressure to beef up its rice inventory, which has been almost depleted in the absence of fresh purchases.
The Philippines, a frequent rice importer, saw domestic prices of the staple grain increase in recent weeks as the NFA could not provide the local market with cheap rice.
Higher rice prices added pressure to Philippine inflation, which quickened to an annual pace of 4.3 percent in March, the fastest in at least five years.
"Buy from the Filipino farmers first and if you could not find sufficient stocks to be bought at the price approved by the NFA Council, that's the time you source it through importation," Duterte told NFA management on Monday night, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
In a meeting with the NFA Council, Duterte also directed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to help provide funds for NFA's local rice procurement program, saying he would like the agency's warehouses "filled to the roof" to ensure sufficient supply, Piñol said.
The council, composed of government economic managers, has approved the purchase by NFA of 250,000 tonnes via a tender open to international traders and suppliers, for delivery starting May, ahead of the lean domestic harvest season from July.
The NFA is also set to buy another 250,000-tonne volume in a government-to-government deal with Vietnam or Thailand, for delivery starting next month.
Duterte has also directed the NFA to increase its buying price for local rice so it could rack up its needed buffer stocks, Piñol said in a statement posted on his Facebook account.