CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Some 21 farmer groups in Central and Northern Luzon joined Butil Party-list in its calling to the National Government to stop its 200,000 metric tons of rice importation.

The National Food Authority (NFA) said the rice importation will buffer the supply in the country due to the effects of the dry spell brought by the El Niño phenomenon.

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Butil earlier reiterated its call on the NFA to stop the planned rice importation as it would greatly devalue the buying price of locally produced rice.

NFA said that “it is the policy of the agency to maintain a high yearend inventory of rice and to position stocks strategically to give consumers ready access to rice supply and protect them from any unwarranted increase in the price of the staple.”

Butil Party-list regional councils and major farmer groups signed a statement, which is against the importation, during a composite meeting in Paridel, Bulacan since February 27 and was completed Thursday last week.

Butil Party-list Representative Agapito Guanlao said some of the signatories also included Butil conveners in some parts Southern Tagalog.

The five-page statement stated that rice importation is “untimely and disadvantageous to local farmers.” The statement called on the NFA to start buying from locally produced rice as local farmers are in need of good earnings to help them cope with effects of the El Niño.

“We have enough supply; the NFA should not make the El Niño an excuse to import rice as only big merchants and retailers would be the ones to benefit from such a move,” the statement said. It added that the harvest season is almost over and it could greatly contribute in increasing rice supply.

Guanlao said an estimated 17.4 million metric tons of palay will be harvested in the country, aside from the 90-day buffer stock available in government and private warehouses.

Guanlao said they expect to see more farmer groups to sign the statement in the coming days.

NFA said part of the 200,000 metric tons of rice importation is set to arrive on the first quarter this year. (Ian Ocampo Flora)