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Recto: Local farmers should benefit from NFA rice budget

Manila (30 November) -- Sen. Ralph G. Recto said he is seriously studying the inclusion of a special provision in the national budget next year compelling the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy rice only from local farmers.

"Instead of buying from Thailand or Vietnam, the NFA should buy locally in order to make it profitable for our farmers to plant rice. The policy should be to buy locally, not importation," Recto, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, said.

The senator issued the statement in light of reports that the NFA's debts has ballooned to over P171 billion this May attributed to over-importation.

Initially, the NFA had not been allocated any budget for next year, but was given a P2.5-billion allotment in the 2011 national budget.

Recto said this fund should be used to purchase rice from local farmers "because it will become an incentive for them to plant more."

"Our farmers will then find ways to improve farming through the use of technology. The government owes this to them since our farmers need all the help they can get after being adversely affected by a series of strong typhoons this year and last year," he said.

"The alternative to my proposal is what we have today, which is an NFA that is indebted by over P171 billion. If we spent this on our farmers, then the country should have been exporting rice rather than over-importing."

Recto explained that the special provision he is studying is not an iron-clad prohibition against the importation of rice.

"Of course we can identify some extraordinary circumstances which should warrant importation, like in times of calamities resulting in the damage of a majority of our rice lands or in times of extreme rice shortage," he said.

"But the policy should be to buy from our farmers and it should not be the exception. This may have some adverse effects at first, but I'd rather err on the side of our farmers who really needs government aid at present." (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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