The Department of Agriculture will make sure that the country will be able to compete with the rest of the world in rice production and pricing with the implementation of the newly approved Rice Tariffication Law.
In a public consultation Thursday on the proposed implementing rules and regulations of the new law, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he is confident that rice farmers will be able to increase their production with the assistance that the law will provide.
Under Republic Act 11203, the government will set aside P10 billion to help farmers increase their productivity as the goal of the law is that in the long run, prices of locally produced rice will be at par with the imports.
The law, which has a life of six years and whose impact will be assessed after three years of implementation, replaces the one that imposes quantitative restrictions on imported rice.
Piñol said that with the continued improvement of rice production as new rice varieties have been developed, the country’s rice farmers will eventually be able to compete with the rest of the world.
On the part of rice farmers, Balbino A. Alingalan told TIMES that the government must, among others, help rice farmers organize themselves so they are able to access funds from government.
Alingalan, president of the Davao Oriental Seed Producers Cooperative, said that many of the farmers are not organized, “so it is difficult for them to secure assistance from government.”
He said that even those who are organized like his group have even found it hard to access funding as requirements are stringent.
This is the reason that, he added, most farmers run to informal lenders who provide them immediate cash even if the interests are high, “because we always need the money right away.”
“If you run to formal lenders, even those in government, it is very difficult for you to borrow because they always require you so many requirements,” he lamented.
This developed as Piñol lamented that speculators are the reason for the reduction in rice prices. “It (rice price reduction) is a product of mere speculations of the traders and millers borne out of their fear that we will be flooded with imported rice from major rice exporting countries,” he said.
He said his agency, as mandated by the law, will make sure that all importers are registered and issued of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC).
He said the agency and the President have both the power to oversee rice importation and make sure that everyone follows the law.
Under the law, importing rice from countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is imposed 35% tariff, while those coming from other countries will have as high as 180% in duties.
He said because of the tariff, imported rice, particularly those coming from outside the Asean region, will be “way expensive than the” the locally produced rice.