P10-B farmers’ subsidy pushed
A lawmaker is pushing for the inclusion of a P10-billion subsidy for local rice farmers in the government’s budget starting next year as a result of plans to deregulate the country’s rice imports.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, who also heads the senate committee on agriculture and food, said on Tuesday that she would be asking Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to include the subsidy in the general fund to ensure the competitiveness of local rice farmers.
A bill allowing the private sector to import rice without limit so long as they pay the correct taxes is pending in Congress.
Asked what was causing the delay in the passage of the Rice Tariffication Bill, Villar said it was hard to pass a bill that was “ugly.”
“We have to be very careful with whatever we will provide in the bill because it’s the farmers who will suffer. They have to be profitable,” she said.
The senator earlier noted that even with the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) where the collected import duties from rice are to be pooled, it would take a long time before farmers could benefit from it. Hence, the proposed subsidy.
Villar is looking to include the P10-billion subsidy in the government’s annual national budget until such time that the RCEF could provide enough financial support to the rice sector.
This is in contrast with the House version of the bill, which is planning to subsidize the sector for only five years.
Compared to Vietnam and Thailand where most of the rice imports are expected to come from, the country’s production cost for rice is too high at P12 a kilo. This is almost double the production cost in Vietnam at P6.50 a kilo and Thailand at P9 a kilo.
Under the Department of Agriculture’s draft road map, it is aiming to lower the cost of producing rice in the country by at least P4 to P8 a kilo by 2022 or by the end of President Duterte’s term.
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