IS IT high time for the National Food Authority (NFA) to be abolished?

The National Food Authority was created on September 26, 1972, under the name National Grains Authority, (NGA) with the mission of promoting the integrated growth and development of the grains. Later, it was reconstituted to what is now the National Food Authority (NFA) with a more widened coverage to non-grains commodities.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Today, the National Food Authority is vested the functions of ensuring the food security of the country and the stability of supply and price of the staple grain-rice. Its function include procurement of paddy from individual bonafide farmers and their organizations, buffer stocking, processing activities, dispersal of paddy and milled rice to strategic locations and distribution of the staple grain to various marketing outlets at appropriate times of the year.

This dual mandate has provided confusion on what to prioritize -- would it be the farmers to ensure that the prices of their palay are adequate or to provide consumers with sustainable supply of rice at a lower cost. Neither of those, it turned out.

The buying price of unhusked rice or palay drops to as low as Php10-13 per kilogram. It does not help that there is nil support for farmers, such as irrigation, loans and other necessary production inputs.

When the government became a signatory to the World Trade Organization it unwittingly put the agriculture sector under the control of global power. No safeguards. No support. It went ahead with its decision to compete in the "free market."

What it failed to recognize is the fact that food is a human right that demands government to set a national policy that will encourage food security and protect human security. Under the WTO, tariffs or taxes on agricultural imports will be eliminated to promote "free trade".

In many countries, high tariffs on agricultural products are maintained to protect the local industry. This means that if an imported product has an additional tax that a locally produced product does not, the local production is protected from some competition. This is to guarantee food security through local food production and to assist the farmers survive the global market.

But government decided to embrace trade liberalization fully.

As such, the country became the dumping ground of developed countries who sell their products below the cost of production. They are able to do this because they provide farmers' subsidies which make up for any lost of income.

So as the country joined the WTO bandwagon, the local agriculture sector watched its slow death. Falling incomes of the farmers and the conversion of agricultural land to other more commercially viable investments are just some of the challenges experienced by farmers and their families. What used to be farmlands have given way to industries which harm the environment.

Consumers have to fend with an increase of rice prices. Government responded with more rice imports, on the basis that it is obliged to import a certain volume of rice whether or not there is a shortage of rice supply. It has created its own crisis. Would abolishing NFA solve this dilemma? Email comments to roledan@gmail.com