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NFA: Delivery of 800,000 MT of rice on sked

The National Food Authority (NFA) has given assurances this year’s 800,000 metric tons (MT) of rice imports intended to boost the country’s buffer stock has started arriving as scheduled.

NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said as of June 9, more than half or 459,400 MT had either been delivered to the designated NFA warehouse or had arrived at the assigned local port, in transit or currently being loaded.

The balance of 340,600 MT for the total volume of 800,000 MT should be fully delivered to NFA warehouses on or before end of August.

Estoperez said NFA issued the statement to deny what he called malicious insinuations on the supposed unscrupulous activities between the cargo handler as well as agriculture and NFA officials.

Critics claimed the alleged nefarious dealings may delay or hamper the delivery of the rice import from Vietnam.

The NFA and the Agriculture Department had been blamed for the alleged higher price sought by the cargo handlers with baseless accusations the fee for cargo handling was padded by as much as $30/MT.

Other critics reported that some cargo handlers cannot be located.

Estoperez said that none of these allegations is true.

He clarified that even the plunder complaint recently filed by the Metro Manila Vendors Alliance (MMVA) against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and ex-NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag is apparently based on mere speculations.

Estoperez said the MMVA claimed the rice importation was a government-to-government transaction when in fact it was an open bidding attended by various bidders and witnessed by a cross-section of Philippine society.

He explained the importation followed the provisions of the Government Procurement Act and the volumes were decided by an Inter-Agency Committee and passed through the approval process.

The importation was made after an assessment of the country’s rice stock position showed that there had been a big drain in security stocks due to the huge, unexpected demand for rice relief after calamities, including super-typhoon Yolanda, hit the country in 2013.

“Certainly, this was made way before the appointment of Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization,” Estoperez said.

“The suppliers – Vietnam Northern Food Corporation I and Vietnam Southern Food Corporation II – have not made any complaint about the cargo handlers, the fees, or the contracts which had already been executed between them,” he added.

Besides, Estoperez said the NFA is not part of the contracting parties for the cargo handling, adding it’s between the supplier and the cargo handler.

On May 8, 2014, the VINAFOOD I requested the assistance of NFA on the cited issues, and on May 15, 2014, the contracting parties met and resolved all the issues.

Estoperez  clarified that cargo handlers and import inspectorates pass through the NFA accreditation process.

On the alleged padding of the handling fee,  Estoperez clarified that the handling fee per contract is $30/MT only, which makes the allegation of price padding by as much as $30/MT totally inconceivable.

Last year’s handling contract with the same supplier was for $32/MT.

“The decrease in handling fee certainly could not mean ‘padding’ in the contract price,’’ Estoperez said.

Estoperez also stressed the bidding for this latest rice importation of NFA has been very transparent.

“As we repeatedly say, our office is ready to provide any interested parties with the public documents regarding this rice importation and we are open to address any inquiries for the sake of transparency,” Estoperez said.