DA open to suspending rice imports
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is ready to heed the call of President Duterte to stop the importation of rice during the country’s harvest season to protect the farmers, but the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) is not too keen on the proposal.
On the sidelines of SL Agritech’s Masagang Ani 300 launch in Quezon City on Monday, Agriculture Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan said the agency would find ways to follow the instruction of the President despite the recent deregulation of rice trade, adding that the move would bode well for local rice producers who are suffering from falling palay prices.
“Knowing the President, as a lawyer, he knows that what he’s saying has a legal basis so we’re going to find ways to make it happen … That is the order of the President so what are we going to do?” he said.
“The proposal’s intention is good. It wants to protect the farmers and so are you not going to support a move like that?” he added.
President Duterte said during the inauguration of a bypass road in Ilocos Sur last week that suspending the importation was a “happy compromise” between farmers and consumers to boost farmer income and ensure rice supply.
As of the second week of July, the average buying price of palay was at P17.87 a kilogram, down 17.31 percent from year-ago rates. The lowest recorded price was in Cavite, where a kilo of palay was sold at P12.85 a kilo or almost the same as the average cost of producing rice at P12 a kilo.
However, Socioeconomic Planning Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla said in an interview with Inquirer that restricting the importation of rice during harvest “goes against the spirit of the law,” adding that the new policy has yet to be fully implemented to resort to “something so drastic.”
“I don’t know why that was the pronouncement of the President but I don’t think he meant it that way because the law is just starting now and all the implementing agencies are doing their part,” she said.
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