The incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must shell out over P160 billion in the next six years for a proposed program that would allow poor Filipinos to buy rice at P20 per kilogram.
Outgoing Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the president-elect, who has designated himself as the next agriculture chief, must issue an executive order (EO) that would mandate the National Food Authority (NFA) to boost its current buffer rice stock level.
“I would like to believe that within the 100 days an executive order can be issued by the president mandating the NFA to increase buffer stock from the present level that they have which is good for only 7 days because of the limited budget of P7 billion,” Dar said in a televised interview.
Dar said the budget of the NFA must be hiked annually starting this year until 2027 to improve the state-run food agency’s capacity of buying and selling rice to the public.
“Our proposal (is) for the NFA to be given (an) additional budget. For example this year, (set aside) P4 billion to prop up their procurement,” he said. “So, this is on top of the P7 billion so there will now be P11 billion to procure palay that will bring them up to the level of about nine-day buffer stock.”
Dar said the budget of the NFA must be increased to the following amounts: P33.5 billion in 2024, P36.5 billion in 2025, P37 billion in 2026 and P37.5 billion in 2027.
“Say now the NFA will have a 9-day buffer stock this year (and this will go up) to say 15 day by mid-year of next year. And by the end of next year, 30-day buffer stock will be managed by NFA,” he said.
“The NFA will have more exposure now in the procurement of palay, that it can maintain good prices of palay, at the same time whatever they bring out to the market in terms of rice, they can now sell it P20 to the 4Ps [Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program]. So, little by little, you are able to give priority to focus groups or targeted groups like the 4Ps, who can buy P20 per kg of NFA rice.”
Latest data from the Department of Social Welfare and development showed that about 4.2 million Filipino households or some 16 million Filipinos benefit from the 4Ps program today.
The reduction in the price of the staple to P20 per kg is one of the campaign promises of Marcos Jr. He later clarified that it is an “aspiration” of his administration.
Dar also disclosed that he has crafted a plan that will slash the retail price of rice to P27.50 per kg. This will be done via the programs dubbed Masagana 150 and Masagana 200, which were patterned after the Masagana 99 program of the president-elect’s father, the strongman Ferdinand Sr.
Masagana 150 is an inbred rice program that would increase the average yield of farmers to 150 cavans per hectare or about 7.5 metric tons (MT) per hectare while Masagana 200, which is a hybrid rice program, would boost farmers’ average yield to 200 cavans per hectare or about 10 MT per hectare.
“[These are] new [programs] that will be simultaneously implemented towards that level of P27.50 [per kg]. Over a period of time, we can go to the level of P27.50 [per kg] as this is the overll price now for the public market,” said Dar.
“So eventually you continue to maintain that 30-day buffer stocking of NFA and of course you have to pay for that. While you’re making sure that the new programs are going to be properly implemented, with all the components necessary and interventions, then we increase productivity, we lower the cost of production.”
Image credits: Nonie Reyes