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Develop niche market, farmers urged

/ 05:35 AM February 23, 2019

With still no means to compete with the expected inflow of cheaper imported rice in the market, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is encouraging local farmers to plant premium rice instead and develop a niche market.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that one way for farmers to cope with the liberalization of the rice industry and “counter its adverse effect,” was to exploit the demand for “aromatic” rice varieties “of good eating quality.”

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These rice variants are costlier but less vulnerable to competition in the market.

“By encouraging our farmers to produce better rice varieties, we are actually going to open a new market. It could be an organic market, or a class-A market, which could be our outlet for excess production,” he said.

The Rice Import Liberalization Law, which is expected to be in effect next month, will allow private entities to import the staple more freely so long as they pay the import duties laid down by the government.

The National Food Authority  is expecting the country’s rice imports to reach 4 million metric tons  this year, or more than twice the average import volume of the country over the past years.

The measure is expected to curb inflation, bring down the retail price of rice and ensure the competitiveness of local rice farmers through subsidies from the tariff to be collected on rice imports.

However, industry groups warned that with the insufficient initial subsidy of P10 billion, domestic rice producers might be forced out of the market by more affordable rice.

On Friday, the DA launched a 2,000-hectare  seed production center in San Roque, Northern Samar—touted to be the biggest seed production center in the country—which is expected to supply the rice seeds requirements of about 200,000 ha of rice fields in Samar and Leyte.

“These will be mainly the premium rice varieties like RC 218, RC 300 and RC 160, which command a high buying price in the rice market,” he said.

The agency is planning to distribute the same rice seeds to other local growers as well to ensure the smooth transition of farmers to the new rice regime.

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