(STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo inspects palay procurement at the National Food Authority warehouse along the MacArthur Highway in Binalonan, Pangasinan yesterday. President Arroyo assured the country of steady rice supply in 2009 because of a National Food Authority (NFA) procurement program.

“We believe that there would be no rice crisis next year,” Mrs. Arroyo said during the NFA’s palay procurement activity in Barangay Pinagnarvacanan in Binalonan, Pangasinan yesterday. The NFA is the government agency which buys the palay harvest of rice farmers.

Mrs. Arroyo yesterday said the rice supply is expected to remain stable next year following the expansion of the government’s palay procurement program, resulting in a hefty increase in the country’s inventory of the food staple.

To further enhance palay production in the province, the President said the government would prioritize the implementation of irrigation projects in Pangasinan, the third biggest palay-producing province in the country.

NFA Administrator Jesus Navarro cited Mrs. Arroyo’s strong support for the palay procurement program.

In Pangasinan alone, the Arroyo administration has released about P1 billion to help farmers cope with the high prices of farm inputs.

At present, the NFA has already bought some 1.10 million bags of palay from the farmers, exceeding the agency’s procurement target of one million bags for the four-month period ending this month.

“This is the highest accomplishment of the NFA as we’ve been able to more than double our palay procurement from 400,000 bags before,” Navarro said.

The NFA has 14 warehouses and seven mobile buying stations in the province which buy clean and dry palay with 14 percent moisture content and a minimum of 95 percent purity at P17 per kilogram.

The NFA also grants an additional incentive of P1,800 to farmers for every 50 bags of palay – at 50 kilograms per bag – that they sell to the agency.

Mrs. Arroyo inspected yesterday the palay-procurement operations of the NFA station as part of her official activities during the holidays.

She proceeded to the NFA warehouse and buying station along the MacArthur Highway after a visit to the construction site of the Urdaneta City Civil Plaza, south of Binalonan town.

She observed the operations of the NFA station from the procurement of rice, the unloading of palay from NFA trucks to the various stages of quality control, including measurement and weighing, and the determination of the palay’s moisture content.

Palay with the least moisture content commands a higher price than those that still require mechanical drying by the NFA.

She also inspected the warehouse to check on the stockpile of palay and milled rice. Half of the total inventory is stored in the NFA warehouse in the province.

Ten percent of the rice farmers in eastern Pangasinan now sell their produce to the NFA, according to NFA officer Nick Rosario. He said that because of the highly subsidized government buying price, more and more farmers are now selling their produce to the NFA.

He added that farmers are shifting from traditional rice seed varieties to the high-yielding varieties recommended by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Some 170 farmers’ cooperatives in eastern Pangasinan with about 5,000 members are accredited to sell palay to the NFA warehouse here and other NFA warehouses in the towns of Rosales, Villasis, Natividad, San Quintin and Asingan.

The NFA buying stations in Western Pangasinan, on the other hand, are located in Alaminos, Mangatarem, Lingayen, and Dagupan City.

In addition, the NFA has four mobile procurement teams in the province, two teams each for eastern and western Pangasinan.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved