DAVAO CITY – Amid city government worry that NFA rice is becoming inaccessible to lower income families, National Food Authority (NFA) Region XI Director Edgar Bentulan said that the public need not worry.

In the weekly “Kapehan sa PIA” last Friday, Bentulan said NFA rice volume in the city has increased from 36,818 bags of rice last May to 42,080 bags last June, thus increasing its total market share in the city from seven percent to ten percent.

He added that they intend to increase the volume of rice to be allocated this July, increasing that volume to 73,624 bags, about 23.9 percent of the market share.

Virgilio Alerta, NFA provincial manager, said prices of the well-milled rice commonly bought by the lower income to the middle income groups have started to drop by as much as P4 a kilo across the Davao Region, ascribing this to the increased volume of NFA rice.

He said the NFA would allocate 100 to 300 bags per week of rice to its outlets.

Regarding the City Council’s passage of a resolution Tuesday last week urging the NFA to install one NFA outlet per barangay in the city, Bentulan said that the agency cannot right away set them up as the city has a lot of barangays, totalling 182 barangays as per the 2010 Census. But they will do their best to do so, he added.

Bentulan gave media organizations the list of accredited NFA outlets in Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal. There are 62 public market outlets, 66 outside market outlets and 11 “Tindahan sa Parokya” located in the two cities.

Confederation of Grain Retailers’ Associations of the Philippines (GRECON) Vice President, Salvio Arguelles, said “NFA rice is strong in the market especially now because they already sell the well-milled variety in the medium price range.”

He said that rice prices “would be stable if the NFA supply is at 30 per cent in the market.”

President Pablo Gonzales Jr., GRECON president, said the group is doing its part in ensuring price stability of rice. He stated that there is “a need to address the middle price ranges of rice to prevent hoarding of rice and queuing at NFA outlets.” Members of GRECON who impose high prices will face sanctions like suspension of membership in GRECON, he emphasized.

Jun Paco, an NFA rice retailer in Agdao Public Market, said that he is happy that NFA is doing more to ensure ample supply of affordable rice and prevent the repeat of the 2008 nationwide rice crisis.

“Sa pagkakaron, nalipay ko kay wala nahitabo kadtong nahitabo niadtong year 2008. Wala nahitabo nga maglaray ang mga tawo kay nagpreparar na ang atong gobyerno [og daghang stock sa bugas] aron makapalit ang mga tawo og baratong bugas sama sa NFA” (I am happy that there was no repeat of what happened in 2008. There are no more queues as the government has ensured ample stocks of rice to make them more affordable to the public), he said.

On the other hand, Lorelie Abunda, a regular buyer at the Agdao Public Market, said that NFA rice is a great alternative for commercial rice, but she will not hesitate to buy commercial rice if its price will go down as she finds it more palatable than NFA rice.

“Sa karon nagapalit na mi og NFA pero sukad lang kadtong nagmahal na ang [ubang klase sa] bugas. Ang ginapalit man gyud namo sa una kanang 7-Tonner. Pareha ra og lasa ang NFA rice ug 7-Tonner. Pero kung mobarato ang Tonner, didto gyud ko kay mas lami gyud siya labina kung walay halo” (We used to buy 7-Tonner rice but we started buying NFA rice when the other varieties of rice got more expensive. NFA rice tastes the same as the Tonner. But if the latter were to become more affordable, then we would go back to Tonner because it’s more delicious, especially the unmixed variety), she said.

Councillor Bernard Al-ag, in his privilege speech during the regular session of the City Council last week, asked the NFA during the city council session to install one NFA outlet per barangay in the city to ensure families more affordable and accessible rice.

The 2008 rice crisis saw a spike of prices of rice in the markets and groceries across the country, leading to people lining up at NFA stalls selling cheaper rice. During the height of the crisis, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the authorities to raid warehouses hoarding sacks of rice. (davaotoday.com)

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