Rice industry stakeholders will have the opportunity to raise their concerns and understand the new rice tariffication regime during four regional consultations scheduled for this week, starting Tuesday, February 26.
The rice tariffication regime, which scraps the quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaces these with tariffs of 35% for rice coming from the ASEAN countries and 50% for non-ASEAN rice, will start on March 5.
Under this regime, rice traders no longer have to apply for import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA) to bring in rice from Vietnam, Thailand and other countries.
“Anybody could engage in rice trading freely without having to be concerned about regulations and licenses,” said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.
In a post on his Facebook account, Piñol said the regional consultations will allow them to explain the details of the new law and seek inputs for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
The consultations will be held on February 26 at the Philippine Carabao Center Conference Center in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija for the Northern Luzon Cluster; February 27 at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Research Center in Lipa, Batangas for the Southern Luzon Cluster; February 28 in Davao City for the Mindanao Cluster; and March 1 in Iloilo City for the Visayas.
The inputs provided by the stakeholders during the regional consultations will be collated by the DA Policy and Planning Office and will be submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which is spearheading the crafting of the IRR, during the National Food Authority (NFA) Council Meeting scheduled on March 5.
In a statement on February 22, Piñol sought to assuage fears of rice industry stakeholders about the possible adverse impact of the tariffication regime.
He said measures have been drawn up to provide safety nets, as follows:
1. Strengthen support to the rice farmers through free seeds, fertilizers, solar irrigation, equipment and credit so that they will be able to increase their production by at least 2 metric tons per hectare per harvest. This is expected to cushion the effect of low buying price expected at a range of P16 to P18 per kilo.
2. Intensify the NFA Procurement Program which buys clean and dry palay at P17 per kilo plus a P3.70 additional incentive per kilo. The DA and NFA will also offer incentives like the PLEA loaning program, fertilizer and equipment to those who will sell their produce to the NFA.
3. Encourage and support rice farmers to use rice seed varieties with better eating quality so that their produce would fetch a better price. Examples of these varieties are RC 160, RC 218 and RC 300 which are being bought by rice millers and traders at P22 to P25 per kilo. By doing this, locally produced rice will target a niche market of consumers who prefer better tasting and good eating quality rice over cheap imported rice.
Piñol also encouraged rice producers to consider exporting organic rice, heirloom rice and upland fancy rice, which command a higher price in foreign markets.
The export of local rice without restrictions is also allowed under the tariffication law.
Piñol said rice tariffication was a commitment made by the Philippines to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over two decades ago.
“The Philippines was able to delay the implementation of the lifting of import restrictions but there was simply no backing off from that commitment. It is not a measure that was just thought of last year and President (Rodrigo) Duterte merely implemented the agreement, otherwise the Philippines could face legal actions from its trading partners,” he said.
Economic managers have projected that tariffication would bring down the price of rice by as much as P7 per kilo. In 2018, Filipinos spent an average of P54 per kilo of rice, almost double the average P28 per kilo price in Vietnam. (Ventures Cebu)