PH rice competitive vs imports, says Neda
More than half of the country’s rice producers are capable of competing with imported rice in terms of prices, while those who cannot may opt to plant special rice variants and develop a niche market.
This was Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemary Edillon’s response to claims of industry groups that the deregulation of rice importation would displace thousands of local farmers.
The policy shift is expected to be implemented next month, following the approval of the Rice Import Liberalization Act by President Duterte.
“There are about 46 provinces that are competitive, meaning they can compete [with imported rice] in terms of price. That’s out of 76 or 78 rice-producing provinces, so more than half,” Edillon said in a phone interview.
“Not all farmers need a significant push for them to be very competitive. Some farmers even produce high-quality rice, in which case, they would compete not on the basis of price but on the basis of quality,” she added.
Edillon cited Nueva Ecija, Kalinga and Iloilo as some of the areas whose rice output could compete with imported rice.
In a roundtable discussion yesterday, industry groups said the cost of producing rice in the country was still higher than those in other countries. Even with the tariffs, imports would still be cheaper.
Teodoro Mendoza, a former professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños who sat at the Philippine Rice Research Institute’s board, said the annual subsidy set by the government for the farm sector would not be enough to modernize the rice industry.
Under the measure, a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund was created to subsidize rice farmers with a yearly allocation of P10 billion.
Mendoza said the amount was only 2.5 percent of the sector’s contribution to the economy at P400 billion. He said to mechanize the industry, the government would need to shell out P31 billion.
However, Edillon said excess from the tariff revenue would be used to develop the sector. The Neda projected a yearly revenue of P28 billion from the law.
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