DTI-attached agency wants to import 3 million bags of rice
By Roy Stephen C. Canivel
Inquirer Business
September 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is proposing to import 150,000 metric tons of rice, as the more costly price of the staple gave a huge push to inflation last August.

In a statement on Friday, DTI said this will be done through its attached agency, the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), in order to augment the current supply of the National Food Authority (NFA).

However, the NFA Council, the agency’s policy-making body, has not yet approved this proposal. Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo, who is also part of the same council, said PITC is on standby until it gets cleared.

If approved, she said the importation — which is equivalent to 3 million bags of rice —  is expected to arrive by December. These would be sold to consumers at P27-P32 per kilo. DTI did not say where it would source its import.

Poor Filipinos have been waiting in line for NFA rice, which give them the needed pause from the current prices of commercial rice that reached an average all-time high of P43 a kilo.

However, delays in NFA’s importation schedules and shipments have made the unbearable wait even longer.

This develops as the prices of basic goods and services reached last month their highest in close to a decade. Rice, which has grown more expensive, helped push inflation to 6.4 percent in August.

It remains to be seen if the council would approve this proposal, especially after it had already approved the order to purchase 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice.

NFA’s manner of importing the 250,000 MT of rice differs from the one PITC would like to pursue.

The 250,000 MT of rice will be purchased through an open tender scheme, wherein private suppliers are allowed to participate in the bidding and would be covered by the procurement law.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco even previously described this as the option that is more competitive, transparent, and least corrupt.

On the other hand, PITC, the country’s premier government-controlled trading corp., would import through a government-to-government procurement. This has no bidding, although it is considered the fastest way to import rice.

“NFA’s strategy to flood the market with affordable rice is laudable, but an open tender scheme might take a longer time to implement,” the DTI said in its statement.

The DTI said PITC will implement “strategies” that will lower the price of rice “even before imported rice reached the country.” DTI did not expound on those strategies.

“By flooding the market with imported rice, hoarders will be left no option but to release their supply in market and eventually stabilize the prices of rice,” DTI said.

When asked for further information on PITC’s capabilities, Castelo said that the state-owned firm has imported rice before under the Arroyo administration.

“They did this in 2002 to augment NFA rice until 2010. [They] stopped in [Aquino’s] administration,” she told the Inquirer in a text message. /kga

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