There is no better option than being prepared.

The looming impact of the El Niño phenomenon has prompted the Inter-agency Food Security Committee (FSC) on Rice to allow the National Food Authority (NFA) Council to proceed with the importation of the 250,000 MT standby authority to beef up the country’s rice stocks.

FSC chaired by the National Economic Development Authority earlier approved the importation of the 250,000 MT standby authority to preposition its food security stocks before the year ends.

Drought due to of El Niño is predicted to intensify beginning October this year and will last until May 2016. DOST – PAGASA forecasted a severe impact of the impeding drought and likened it to what happened in 1997-1998 where there was a 24% drop in the country’s local palay production.

According to forecasts, traditional rice granaries of the country like Isabela, Mindoro, Quezon, Albay, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga are among the provinces that will be hardly hit by El Niño.

FSC recommendation is a result of the assessment made by an Inter-agency El Niño Task Force on the impact of the El Niño in the local rice production. Another 500,000 MT of rice has been approved also by the FSC for importation for the projected deficit in production for the year 2016, but shipment of the additional volume will be made early next year.

NFA Administrator Renan B. Dalisay said that invitation has been sent to the countries of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to participate for the supply of the 250,000 MT well-milled rice with 25% brokens intended for this year and the 500,000 MT well-milled rice with 25% brokens supply for 2016 under a Government-to-Government procurement scheme.

The Philippines has a standing rice supply agreement with these countries.

Dalisay assured that the food agency has sufficient stock until the end of the year and prices in the market remain stable. To maintain the stability of rice stock and price, the government will start negotiating, for the 250,000 MT rice supply for the last quarter of 2015 and the 500,000 MT rice supply intended for the first quarter of 2016, now when rice prices in the international market are still low and stable.

He added that rice prices in the international market may jack-up once there is a big demand from other exporting countries since El Niño is a worldwide phenomenon, the worst in 17 years.

Rice deliveries will be on staggered basis. For the 250,000 MT standby authority, shipment will be 125,000 MT by end of November and 125,000 MT by end of December this year.

Meanwhile, shipment for the 500,000 intended as part of the country’s rice supply for 2016, will be 175,000 MT by end of January, 175,000 MT by end of February and 150,000 MT by end of March next year.

The total volume of rice contracted and imported by the agency with the recommendation of the Food Security Committee and NFA Council for 2015 is 1,787,000 MT which include the 500,000 MT contracted in February, 150,000 and 100,000 MT contracted in June, the 187,000 MT MAV-Omnibus Origin private importation, and the 600,000 MT allocated volume for the MAV-CSQ opened last July, and the 250,000 MT to be contracted this month in preparation for the impact of El Nino to the country’s production and rice buffer stock inventory.

The total volume of rice imported is within the gap estimate of the country’s palay production of 18.86 MMT palay translated to 12.26 MMT rice equivalent and the country’s consumption requirement with 30-day mandated buffer stock at the start of lean month season.

The El Niño Task Force is composed of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Tourisam (DOT), Department of Energy (DOE) Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Presidential Communicatins Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Food Authority (NFA) and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)

FSC-Rice is chaired by the National Economic Development Authority with Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Department of Agriculture (DA), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), National Food Authority (NFA), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Farmers’ representative as members.

Meanwhile, the NFA Council is chaired by the Secretary Francis Pangilinan of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM) with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), National Food Authority (NFA) and a farmer’s representative as members.