Following numerous withdrawals by local government units of their allocations, the remaining stocks of rice at the two warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA) has fallen below 15,000, with more than a week of quarantine left and possibly a longer period if extended.
The NFA Catanduanes provincial office told the Tribune late last week that out of the 11 municipalities, only the town of San Andres has yet to withdraw rice intended for their respective food distribution programs.
About half of the 315 barangays have also withdrawn rice paid out of their Calamity Funds, in volumes ranging from 100 to 120 bags.
Of the towns who did, only Virac and Baras have exceeded what was supposed to be each town’s allocation of 1,000 bags each as per NFA policy.
The capital town has already bought 4,000 bags of NFA rice, buoyed by a P1 million donation from the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCCI) while Baras got 1,500 bags after TGP Rep. Jose Teves reportedly made representations with the NFA regional office.
Last week, even the provincial government purchased 3,000 bags, presumably for its own rice distribution program or as additional assistance to certain municipalities. This brought the total number of rice withdrawals from NFA Catanduanes to just over 20,000 bags.
This early, the Caramoran, Baras and Viga LGUs have already asked NFA Catanduanes to reserve 1,000 bags each for their future withdrawals.
With the support of the Sangguniang Bayan, the Viga municipal government headed by Mayor Emeterio Tarin has vowed to give one sack of rice to each household in the town. Viga is the province’s rice granary and accounts for the majority of the rice being produced in the traditionally rice-importing province.
Under normal conditions, NFA’s stock of about 30,000 bags of rice a month ago was deemed sufficient until June, but at this is only buffer stock as the agency releases only 10% of the estimated daily rice requirement of the island of 1,740 bags per day for 2020.
The agency injects five bags weekly to each of the 300 Bigasang Bayan outlets at one outlet per barangay, with each 50-kilo sack sold at P1,250 each.
There used to be more than 500 such outlets but this will be ultimately reduced to just above 300 pursuant to Rice Tariffication Law which removed from NFA its previous function of stabilizing the price of rice in the country.
While most of the island’s rice requirement is filled by the infusion of commercial rice imported from the mainland by local traders, the NFA is required by the same law to maintain a buffer stock good enough for 15 days. This is equivalent to about 26,000 bags, part of which can be used during emergencies
With the remaining stock at the NFA’s two warehouses depleted to just over a third of the pre-COVID-19 levels, the management is banking on the replenishment of its stock from the central office which is keeping watch on the stock levels of its provincial offices.
It is claimed that the Bicol region is set to receive a shipment of 160,000 bags from a nearby region, with Catanduanes probably getting about 20,000 bags. However, there is still no word on when the shipment will arrive.
The NFA officials are also keeping their fingers crossed that the on-going harvest season in the rice-producing provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur would be bountiful but the milling of the harvested palay could be delayed by the lack of workers due to the quarantine.