Rough Cuts: It’s the ineptitude

The expectation that the importation by the National Food Authority (NFA) of rice from Vietnam and Thailand would result to the reduction of the prices of the food staple has, until now, remained just expectation.

And the sad thing about it is that it has even resulted to the further increase in the prices of rice in the market.

Before the arrival of the imported rice the government assured the people that once the country is flooded with the cereal, prices will dive. But how can the government flood the country with rice when the NFA has not even gone halfway in its unloading of the rice from the vessels these are loaded?

Of course the agency has been fortunate as the weather situation in the country gave them the best of favor to justify the delay in the unloading. So long is the delay that the government’s plan to “flood” the country with low-priced rice is overtaken by the coming of the flood waters brought about by continuous rains.

We believe, however, that the real culprit in the surge in the prices of rice is the ineptitude of the people running the NFA the lack of foresight of those sitting in the NFA Council. Add to it the braggadocio of one top executive at the Department of Agriculture who predicted during the early days of his watch at the agency that the country would be self-sufficient in rice in a year’s time and the shortage of the cereal has become even more pronounced.

Yes, the NFA Council is an ad hoc body. Yet, it cannot just be abolished because it is created by the very same law that institutionalizes the NFA. It is this sense of “security” of tenure of the body that makes its members paranoid of its powers. That is, the Council thinks it is the only body that knows what is best to address the problem of rice shortage and high rice prices.

The looming rice shortage was brought to the limelight as early as late last year and the decibel of the talks became highest during the first quarter of this year. The shortage was for real. Yet, the NFA Council was at that time, still debating whether there really was a diminishing stock of the Filipino’s staple food. And when the members of the Council finally agreed, though grudgingly, that there indeed was a serious shortage of rice they still continued debating whether to import rice or not.

Then finally, the decision to import was arrived at. But again, the Council still proceeded with its almost endless debates. This time whether the importation should be made by government through the NFA, or this be through private grains businessmen.

When it was decided that government does it the next worst thing that happened was the agonizing process of bidding for the supply requirements. The first attempt failed and it took some time to conduct another bidding.

So long was the over-all compliance of the import requirements that by the time the delivery was scheduled the country’s worst rainy season already set in. It was the weather phenomenon that perhaps for the NFA, was a major blessing in disguise.

When confronted as early as June what happened to the promised “flood” of rice that will bring down the prices of the basic commodity for the Filipino household, the NFA was quick to pin the blame on the incessant rains bothering the ports where the import carrier vessels were supposed to dock and unload their precious cargo.
And maybe the NFA people and everyone who gave the Filipinos false hopes for low priced rice to come and prayed hard enough for the rains and floods to continue in order to isolate themselves from the backlash of their failed promise.

Now we are somehow starting to suspect that the circumstances leading to the exposure of some 5,000 bags of the rice import getting wet was not really brought about by some fortuitous incidents. It could be “man-made” if only to manifest the situation that would happen if the NFA is pressured to unload the imported rice cargo in the midst of the supposed continuing undesirable weather condition.

In sum the NFA really is trying to do its best, albeit worst, just to extricate itself from the hell hole that it is in at this time of extremely high prices of rice.

Meanwhile, feeling the extreme heat, the government is putting forward all palliative measures to stop the skyrocketing rice prices including importing fish and poultry.

But then, again, what is a viand for if the high price of rice would make every Juan unable to put rice on his family’s table?

Posted in Opinion