By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — The newly signed law allowing the unrestricted importation of rice will decrease domestic rice production said a regional leader of the nationalist bloc in Congress.
“The passage of Rice Tariffication Law puts our farmers in a disadvantageous position and discourages them to plant the crop.” explained Lenville Salvador, regional coordinator of Makabayan Ilocos and member of the coalition’s national council.
He underscored that removing quantitative restriction on rice imports will further weakens the country’s agriculture sector and endanger domestic food security.
According to him, cheap rice from Vietnam and Thailand will flood the local market, making it more difficult for Filipino farmers to compete with the steep rise of their production cost.
The cost to produce a kilo of palay in the Philippines is P10-12. While farmers in Vietnam spend P6.50 and about P9 in Thailand to produce the same volume.
He added the law will only benefit rice importers and big traders that buy cheap rice abroad and sell it in the local market with huge profit.
“Kapag kontrolado na ng mga negosyante ang pamilihan, kayang-kaya na nilang itakda ang mas malaki nilang tubo. Sa una ay baka mura pa ang bigas, kalaunan ay maging mahal na (When the traders already control the market, they can easily set for greater profit. On the onset, rice can be cheap but eventually it will become expensive),” he said.
From 2013 to 2017, Ilocos Region contributed about 10% of the country’s total rice production with an annual average harvest of 1.80 million metric tons based on government statistics.
The new law on rice tariffication signed by on Friday, Feb 15 which amends Republic Act No. 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. Instead of limiting the entry, imported rice will now be just subject to tariff. ASEAN countries will pay 35% while non-member states will be charge 50%.
An estimated 13.5 million palay farmers and their families, 17.5 million farm workers, and more than 10 million Filipinos dependent on NFA rice are expected to be affected by the law.
In Facebook post, Ibon Foundation executive director Sonny Africa explained that imported rice are cheaper “because other governments give huge support to their rice farmers.”
He cited that annual government support for domestic rice industries reached as much as: US$1.1 billion in Vietnam; US$4.4 billion in Thailand; and US$12 billion in India in the years.
Africa said that Japan gives as much as US$16 billion annually on top of tariff rates up to 800% to protect its domestic production from imported rice. According to him, the price of locally produced rice can be as cheap “if the government had been giving rice farmers the proper protection and support instead of decades-long neglect and liberalization.” # nordis.net