Press Release
February 14, 2018


It was "downright bewildering" for the Philippines to experience a critically low supply of affordable rice on the back of a record-breaking surplus in the supply of the staple, Sen. Grace Poe said today, as she urged the Senate to launch an investigation into long-standing claims that there exists a syndicate in the National Food Authority (NFA) that manipulate rice data.

Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 623 directing the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar to investigate the purported shortage of affordable rice that is driving up prices of commercial rice sold in the markets.

"It is downright bewildering to allegedly have a record-breaking surplus in rice supply on one hand and experience a low inventory of rice in the warehouses of NFA on the other hand and thereby needing to import rice," said Poe in filing the resolution.

Poe, who earlier said there had been widespread speculations about alleged syndicate in the NFA for decades, filed the measure as she wanted the impending Senate inquiry to determine the veracity of "persistent allegations" of a mafia, syndicate or "rice cartel" in the government's rice procurement and importation program. She said this was necessary in order to put an end to their illegal and corrupt practices and ensure the availability of the staple food.

The Philippine Statistics Authority late last month said a total of 19.28 million metric tons of palay was produced in 2017, compared with 17.63 million metric tons in 2016, or a 9.36% increase.

Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol, for his part, earlier said he expects the Philippines to reach a record-breaking 3 million metric tons in the first quarter of 2018.

The NFA said stocks of cheap rice are running low. The agency also stopped supplying rice to local retailers resulting in the unavailability of affordable rice in the market and jacking up prices of commercial rice.

Poe said that "we cannot turn a blind eye on alleged reports regarding the existence of a rice cartel in the Philippines."

"The alleged existence of a rice cartel operating inside and outside the government is definitely an affront to the dignity of our Filipino rice farmers and the consuming public and must be obliterated to free our small farmers from a vicious debt trap and to drive away hunger out of the borders of the Philippines," she added.

The inter-agency NFA Council on Monday approved the importation of 250,000 MT of rice mainly from Vietnam and Thailand, a move meant to replenish the dwindling buffer stock.

The NFA is mandated to maintain a 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean months of July to September.

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