PH gov’t told to regulate rice imports
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to properly manage rice imports while encouraging farmers to expand their production amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a recent public statement, DA Secretary William Dar announced that the government had approved a P8.5 billion supplemental budget for a DA Rice Resiliency Project that would improve the country’s level of rice self-sufficiency and make it less reliant on imports.
The DA statement indicated that the total rice requirement of the country for 2020 would be 14.46 million metric tons (MT).
Right now, the DA’s regular programs amounting to P17 billion would generate an output of 12.6 million MT, equivalent to 83 percent of the country’s requirement. Because of the supplemental program, the country could yield another 867,184 MT, bringing the self-sufficiency level to 93 percent.
The balance of 7 percent of national requirements, or 978,392 MT of rice, would then be serviced by imports.
The FFF questioned the DA’s assumption that imports would be limited to 7 percent of local requirements given that the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) has removed all restrictions on the volume and timing of imports.
It warned that if cheap rice imports continue to flood domestic markets, it could create a serious glut that would depress palay prices and ultimately discourage farmers from expanding their production.
“DA just recently announced that import sanitary permits have already been issued for 1.8 million tons of rice, and that the DA is now interceding with exporting countries like Vietnam to honor their supply contracts for these imports. He added that the government itself is planning to import another 300,000 MT,” Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager, said.
“If all these imports come in, we would end up with a surplus of over a million tons in 2020. This glut will inevitably lead to a fall in palay prices and end up penalizing the very rice farmers that the DA wanted to support,” he added.