DAVAO CITY–The National Food Authority (NFA) is selling its special grade imported Thai rice in commercial markets here to bring down the soaring prices of rice that have gone up to as much as P52 a kilo in the previous weeks.

But NFA officials only made the statement after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) discovered sacks of NFA rice repacked into commercial bags in a raid in seven NFA warehouses in Tefasco, Ilang on June 10.

This 76-year-old woman starts lining up at 5:00 a.m. to buy the maximum two kilos of rice at the National Food Authority (NFA) rice retailer in Bankerohan. Luckily, she got it at 6:30 a.m. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Filemon Cangrejo, NFA assistant provincial manager, said the repacking is part of the auction program that NFA has piloted in Davao city since June 5 to pull down the soaring prices of rice.

He said by introducing the “special grade NFA rice” at P35 a kilo to the market, consumers will have more choices what to buy. It will also exert pressure on retailers to bring down the prices of rice.

The special grade NFA rice is sold at P32 per kilo to accredited retailers in the city’s major markets in Agdao, Bankerohan, Talomo and Calinan.

But Arcelito Albao, spokesperson of the NBI Southeastern Mindanao regional office (Semro), said that during the NBI raid, NFA failed to show documents that made the re-packing legal. The NBI conducted the raid as part of its anti-hoarding operations.

Albao said that the NBI was only submitting the report for review in Manila and it is up for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file charges for violations.

But Cangrejo said NFA has been authorized to dispose 5,000 bags of special grade NFA rice in the market each week.

He said NFA administrator Jessup Navarro approved the operation although he admitted there was no written order about it, yet. The strategy to auction government rice was an offshoot of the consultation that Navarro made among Davao city retailers on June 3. Retailers had complained that they could no longer buy low priced rice from their sources, the reason behind the prevailing high prices. According to Cangrejo, NFA-Davao noted a daily increase of commercial rice prices towards the end of May, prompting their office to report the trend to Manila.

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