Senate to probe alleged NFA rice shortage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — The Senate will investigate the alleged shortage of government-subsidized rice catered to millions of poor Filipinos.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, the Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning on the supposed lack of supply at the National Food Authority (NFA).

This came after NFA Administrator Jason Aquino said on Feb. 7 that there was low supply of NFA rice, a more affordable variety of the staple that serves Classes D and E or around 8 to 10 million Filipinos.

Read: NFA: Low supply of affordable rice, but no rice shortage in PH

Aside from Aquino, the Senate invited Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, along with members of farmer organizations.

Meanwhile, Jun Evasco — chair of the NFA Council, which is the agency's top policy-making body — said he would not be able to attend the hearing.

What shortage?

Evasco allayed fears of a shortage of NFA rice, saying on Feb. 7 that 325,000 metric tons of rice are still being delivered to the country until the end of February.

Read: NFA Council: No need to panic, rice supply is coming

Despite this, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered on Feb. 9 the importation of an additional 250,000 metric tons from the NFA's standby order.

Read: NFA Council: Duterte orders importation of standby rice order

Meanwhile, Piñol on Feb. 14 disputed claims of a national rice shortage, saying that rice supply is "above and beyond" the national requirement.

Read: Traders, middlemen creating fake rice shortage to hike prices - Agriculture Chief

"The food supply chain from the farm to the market has always been controlled by traders and middlemen," he said. "We believe that unless we correct this age-old anomaly of traders and middlemen controlling the food supply chain — from the farm to the market — the consumers will never be able to feel any changes in the degree and level of production of farmers."