Private rice imports OKd
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said President Duterte had agreed in principle to allow the private sector to import rice, but further details as to the actual implementation of this policy were still to be finalized and released.
Lopez, who sits as one of the members of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council, told reporters yesterday that he had explained to President Duterte the benefits of allowing the private sector to import rice during a recent meeting.
“For a while, there was a recommendation to do it [import rice] through government-to-government. In a recent meeting, we cleared up to the President that it was difficult to do it through government-to-government because it would need large funds [and the government] could just end up on the losing end when the prices drop,” he said in Filipino.
“The principle now is that we let the private sector to also import because, first of all, they know how to time it, they know the market. What’s difficult with the government is you might miss up on timing. When there’s a shortage, you panic and buy at a higher price,” he added.
He said that this stance sided with the general position of the economic managers, referring to the heads of the National Economic and Development Authority, the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Finance.
The NFA, which decides on issues surrounding the country’s food supply, has recently been divided over whether to allow the arrival of more private-sector shipments or order fresh cargos through the NFA itself amid concerns that farmers would be affected in one way or another.
While the NFA engages through government-to-government deals, private importers participate through the minimum access volume (MAV) mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Lopez said the government would benefit from additional revenue if it allowed private sector importers since this would mean they would have to pay tariffs. He said that rice was a very important commodity, a staple which affects the every day life of Filipinos.
“It is very important for President Duterte to keep supply and prices stable. It is also a big factor in the inflation index,” he explained.
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