Unlimited rice

  • THE statistics are staggering. According to the International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines wastes more than 300,000 tons of rice annually. This translates to a cost of more than P20 million a day, or about P8 billion annually. To put this in the proper perspective, the annual volume of rice wastage is equivalent to a third of rice imports, an issue that is fraught with political, economic and even health considerations. All this because Filipinos, on the average, are said to waste three tablespoons of rice every day.
     
    But the proposal to ban “unlimited rice” servings in some restaurants, apparently a knee-jerk one, by Sen. Cynthia Villar, seems misplaced. This week, in a Senate hearing on the country’s rice importation and failed attempts to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production, these statistics on rice wastage were again brought up, along with the ill effects of too much rice consumption on the health. Betraying the Big-Brother or draconian tendencies many Filipino politicians have, Villar proposed to stop restaurants from offering “unlimited rice” promotions to their customers. It touched a raw nerve especially on social media, with the senator being the subject of a few memes. On Twitter, parody accounts of local fast-food chains made fun of the proposed “unli-rice ban.” It’s likely a manifestation of Filipinos’ frustrations with the misplaced priorities of some politicos. Indeed, there are bigger problems to tackle than restaurants’ unli-rice promos. As expected, Villar walked back her proposal. Equating unli-rice to wastage is a debatable proposition. Perhaps Villar has not eaten in restaurants offering these promos. Waiters often make it a point to ask customers how many cups of rice they need, and serve rice only when requested. The restaurants, it seems, are aware of the likelihood of wastage, and often use very small cups. Needless to say, these promos are popular. To many working-class Filipinos, it’s perhaps the only luxury they could afford given the rising cost of food, but one that could easily fill their stomachs. Thus, the immediate backlash on the senator. A more sound proposal is Senate Bill 1863 filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in 2013. It sought to penalize not unli-rice promos, but the practice among restaurants of refusing to serve less than a cup of rice, and proposed to fine these establishments up to P100,000. To keen observers of Filipino habit, the wastage happens with those who order more rice than they are able to consume, not with those who are willing to pay for an extra serving. To be sure, the solution to rice wastage is education, not Machiavellian impositions. Villar could instead fund an extensive campaign to curb rice wastage, for instance, by emphasizing the ill effects of a high-carbohydrate diet, among them diabetes and heart disease. To be fair, Villar is advocating more brown rice consumption. A recent Manila Times story notes that brown rice, or “Pinawa” among Tagalogs, is simply unpolished white rice, but has more protein, fiber, good fats, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B9 and E, antioxidants and minerals than white rice. According to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), brown rice can help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, brown rice also encourages balanced eating — based on testimonial evidence, as gathered by PhilRice consultant Cezar Mamaril, people consume less rice when they eat brown rice. People get their fill sooner, because brown grains weigh heavier. An issue that touchers right at the heart of Filipino culture and lifestyle deserves greater introspection, not knee-jerk thinking. Politicians cannot simply propose to restrict the demand side of rice consumption, just because they find it harder to deal with the supply side.
  • Philippines: Philippines to import 250,000 tonnes of rice in June

  • The Philippines, one of the world's top rice buyers, plans to import 250,000 tonnes of the grain next month, in order to increase stockpiles before the lean harvest season and offset potential crop damage during the typhoon season.

    This has been seen as a good opportunity for rice exporters from Thailand, Vietnam, India and Pakistan. Thailand's National Food Authority (NFA) said will announce the bidding immediately after securing approval from the NFA Council. The first imported rice batches should arrive in late June or early July. The council will also finalise the import terms for up to 805,000 tonnes of rice that local private traders will bring in under an annual quota scheme in order to ensure supply even during the typhoon season. The Philippine Government is shifting from buying rice under government-to-government deals to ensure competitiveness and transparency following accusations that some NFA officials were making money from such deals. The Philippines' storm season typically peaks from October to December with the strongest storms landing in, damaging the country's rice crops. Government stockpiles are just enough to cover eight days of national requirements. Meanwhile, the NFA is mandated to maintain a 15-day buffer stock at any given time and a minimum of 30 days during the lean harvest season from July to September. The Thai government now controls 4.32 million tonnes of state rice stocks and aims to dispose of it all by September this year, given rising rice demand. Of the total, 2.5 million tonnes of low-quality and decaying rice fit only for industrial use will no longer dampen the price of newly harvested rice. If the state succeeds in selling 1.82 million tonnes of quality rice, the state rice stocks will drop sharply to only 2.5 million tonnes. Of the remainder, 2 million tonnes will serve as animal feed and the rest will be used for energy production. The Thai Foreign Trade Department is scheduled to hold an auction for 2 million tonnes in June and another for 500,000 tonnes in July. - VNA  
  • High prices in first quarter keep rice farmers profitable, NFA says

  • RICE FARMERS are estimated to have raised P32 billion from sales of palay, or unmilled rice, in the first quarter, the National Food Authority (NFA) reported yesterday, citing high farmgate prices.

     
     
    Workers unload sacks of rice at a warehouse of the National Food Authority (NFA) in suburban Manila on October 7, 4014. -- AFP
    In the first three months of the year, the NFA bought 131,720 bags of rice from farmers nationwide at P17 per kilogram (kg), for a total of P118.5 million According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the cost of palay production averages P12.00/kg. Despite NFA’s buying of unmilled rice, farmers took advantage of the high prices offered by private traders ranging at P18.00 -- P22.00/kg versus the NFA’s support price of P17.00/kg plus incentives. NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Y. Aquino said that the NFA buys unmilled rice from farmers in an effort to stabilize rice prices. “It is the mandate of the NFA to stabilize the price of rice in the market and we know that NFA serves as the benchmark for the price of palay,” he said in a statement yesterday. “It influences the buying price of private traders to go higher than the support price for them to corner the volume they need. Without NFA as a stabilizer, the traders can dictate the price of palay, short-changing the farmers whenever they can,” Mr. Aquino added. “We don’t base our performance solely on how much we have procured because we are limited by the government support price of P17.00/kg. We cannot go beyond that. What is important is that the farmers are enjoying much higher prices from private traders and that is good. The NFA’s presence is meant to stabilize the price of palay, not to directly compete with the traders,” Mr. Aquino said. The NFA targets purchases of 4.6 million bags (230,367 MT) of palay this year to augment its rice requirement for distribution and buffer stocks. “At the present government support price of P17.70 -- P18/kg of palay, we are still giving the farmers a net profit of at least P285.00 -- P300.00 per bag,” he added. -- E.J.C. Tubayan
  • Rice farmers earn P32B in Q1

  •  By Jed Macapagal

    The National Food Authority (NFA) said palay farmers earned around P32 billion due to high farm-gate prices experienced during the first quarter of 2017. NFA said it bought  131,720 bags from farmers nationwide at the government support price of P17  per kg, plus incentives of P0.70 to P1 per kg for a total amount of P118.5 million.  The remaining harvest for the quarter was sold by farmers to private traders at higher prices averaging P19.80 per kg.  NFA said  farmers who sold palay to the agency at P850 to P900 per bag realized a net profit of at least P39.5 million, while those who sold to traders at an average of P990 per bag earned an estimated P390 per bag or a total of P31.93 billion net profit  based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s data on the cost of palay production in the country at P12 per kg. NFA said  even with its intensified palay buying activities and incentives, farmers still took advantage of the high prices offered by private traders ranging from  P18  to P22.00 per kg against the government’s support price of P17 per kg plus incentives.  NFA’s number is lower than the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) estimated income of farmers during the quarter.  Last month, Emmanuel Piñol, DA secretary,  estimated that the aggregate income of rice farmers during the first quarter is estimated at P73.08 billion since the buying price of paddy rice by traders has gone to as high as P21 per kilo or an increase of between P7 to P9 per kilo from the previous seasons.  “It is the mandate of the NFA to stabilize the price of rice in the market and we know  NFA serves as the benchmark for the price of palay. It influences the buying price of private traders to go higher than the support price for them to corner the volume they need. Without NFA as a stabilizer, the traders can dictate the price of palay, short-changing the farmers whenever they can,” said Jason Laureano Aquino, NFA administration said in a statement.   ”We don’t base our performance solely on how much we have procured because we are limited by the government support price of P17 per kg.  We cannot go beyond that. What is important is that the farmers are enjoying much higher prices from private traders and that is good. The NFA’s presence is meant to stabilize the price of palay, not to directly compete with the traders,” he added.    For this year, the NFA targets to buy 4.6 million bags equivalent to 230,367 metric tons of palay to augment rice requirement for distribution and buffer stocking.  Aquino said  at the present government support price of P17.70 to P18 per kg of palay, NFA is giving farmers a net profit of at least P285 to P300 per bag.  NFA also assured there is enough rice in Marawi City, which is currently being ravaged by the conflict between government troops and the Maute terrorist group.  “We assure all residents of Marawi and the rest of Mindanao that we have enough rice in NFA warehouses in the area. We are ready to issue rice to relief-giving agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine National Red Cross and local government units anytime they would need it to distribute to the affected residents,” Aquino said. He said  NFA rice stocks for the whole of Mindanao currently stands at 1,504,190 bags and that its offices in other regions, if necessary, are ready to augment the buffer stocks in the region to effectively meet the residents’ rice requirements during the 60-day implementation of martial law in the area.
  • P237M worth of rice seized

  • Verne Enciso, officer in charge of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Cebu, said the shipments arrived sometime last March 2017 at the CIP but were discovered only recently. Philstar.com/File CEBU, Philippines - At least 118,500 bags of rice from Thailand valued at P237 million not covered by import permits were apprehended at the Cebu International Port.
     
    Of this number, 80,000 were found in a cargo vessel while 38,500 were found in 77 container vans. It was Verne Enciso, officer in charge of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Cebu, who recommended to Customs District Collector Elvira Cruz that a Warrant of Seizure and Detention be issued against the shipments, as well as the vessel. As of yesterday, Cruz has yet to act on the recommendation. Enciso said the shipments arrived sometime last March 2017 at the CIP but were discovered only recently. It is the National Food Authority that issued import permits. MV Mekong is still on anchorage at the CIP as BOC-Cebu did not issue an exit clearance. The rice shipments, reported to be part of the 2016 Minimum Access Volume (MAV) importation program of the National Food Authority, failed to arrive in time for the February 28 deadline imposed by NFA administrator Jason Aquino. According to Enciso, they will abide by the decision of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon or the Department of Finance if it will be decided that import permits will be issued to cover the rice importations. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez who sits as member of the NFA Council (NFAC) said President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed, albeit in principle, to allow the private sector to import rice the other day. This, in effect, stopped the NFA’s plan to import rice using government-to-government transactions. To recall, the NFAC, headed by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., set an extension for the remaining six percent of the MAV allocation to March 31. However, in a memorandum to Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, Aquino requested that BOC apprehend shipments arriving after February 28, except for those coming from India and Pakistan. This is the reason why, last month, BOC-Cebu apprehended the P289 million worth of rice from Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand that arrived at the Cebu port on March 1, 2, 7, and 8. While Faeldon issued an order to this effect on March 7, Deputy Commissioner Natalio Ecarma issued another order dated March 17, saying rice importation under the 2016 MAV program was extended to March 31 regardless of country of origin. Ecarma issued the order when he was OIC commissioner in response to a memorandum from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. However, Aquino refused to issue import permits because he already served notice to countries of origin on his plan to import using government-to-government transactions. "Sa ngayon, we are still waiting for further instruction of Faeldon if the rice shipment will be released with the import permit na retroactive yung effect. Wait and see lang muna kami," Enciso said Enciso said they would be glad if the rice shipments will be released to the consignees as this would mean income on the part of the bureau because the consignees will be paying Customs taxes and duties amounting to millions of pesos. Enciso said that if all rice shipments will be confiscated in favor of the government, the bureau will not earn as the smuggled rice cannot be put to a public auction, but will all be donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). (FREEMAN)