By LITO RULONA
THE city council’s committee on trade, commerce and industry yesterday expressed fears that rice prices would dramatically surge after the National Food Authority (NFA) ceased performing its regulatory functions over grains industry.
Councilor George Goking, the committee chairman, said this after RA 11203, otherwise known as the Rice Liberalization Law, took effect yesterday.
Goking said the NFA would no longer exercise regulatory functions over the international and domestic trading of rice, and this, he added, could mean uncontrolled increase of rice prices.
“Nahimo nato uban ang Cagayan de Oro Price Coordinating Council, National Food Authority, and the Department of Trade and Industry in the implementation of the price control over rice prices sold in the market,” he said.
But with the new law, aside from removing NFA’s regulatory powers over the import and export of rice, the NFA also lost other functions such as the licensing and registration of people and entities engaged in the grains business, collection of regulatory fees, issuance of negotiable warehouse receipts, warehouse inspection, authority to seize hoarded stocks, and enforcement of rules and regulations in the grains business, among others.
Section 4 of RA 11203 repealed “laws and all other laws or provisions of law prescribing quantitative import restrictions or granting government agencies the power to impose such restrictions… hindering the liberalization of the importation, exportation and trading of rice…” It also enumerated subparagraphs of Section 6 (a) of Presidential Decree No. 4 as amended, which pertains to the regulatory functions of NFA.
“They were told that NFA will now focus on buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies as stated under the law,” Goking said.
Before the signing of RA 11203 by President Duterte this Feb. 14, the NFA had aired its concerns regarding the possible implications of the removal of the agency’s regulatory powers over the local grains industry. These were sent to the concerned legislators, members of the NFA Council, and the President.
NFA buys palay at the current support price of P17 per kilogram plus additional incentives of P3 /kg (buffer stocking incentive) and P0.70/kg for delivery, drying and cooperative development. This means an individual farmer can get a maximum of P20.40/kg while members of farmer cooperatives would get a maximum of P20.70/kg of palay sold to NFA.