DA moves to control surge in imported rice
Agriculture Secretary William Dar may not be able to stop the influx of imported rice in the market to subdue the further decline in palay prices, but he is looking to use food safety measures to at least “delay” their arrival as the main harvest season nears.
In a text message to the Inquirer on Wednesday evening following a meeting in Malacañang, Dar said he was looking to strengthen requirements for food safety to “delay the arrival of much more (imported rice) during harvest.”
The country’s rice farmers are currently suffering from palay rates that have sunk below their average production cost because of tight competition from more affordable imported rice. Government interventions, at times delayed, have yet to push buying prices.
The nearing harvest season in October is when the country produces 60 percent of its palay output.
Dar said his plan could be done by imposing stricter requirements when giving out sanitary and phytosanitary permits (SPS) to private importers. He said this could also be a way to ensure that “we can import good stocks.”
Following the passage of the rice tariffication law that has in effect deregulated rice trade, private firms are allowed to import rice stocks without limit so long as they secure SPS permits from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
How the newly installed agriculture chief would be imposing stricter measures is still being discussed, but the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) is open to the idea.
In a separate interview with FFF national manager Raul Montemayor, he said the agency could mandate the performance of additional tests on rice shipments.
This could temper the entry of imported rice in the market, in effect addressing the supply glut.
BPI assistant director Glen Panganiban said the agency could issue SPS permits in one week on average, provided that private firms could secure all the necessary requirements.
As of July, BPI has about 480 active rice importers, 77 of which have only been registered this year. Since the new rice trade law was passed, Panganiban’s team processed 15 permits on a weekly basis.
In terms of SPS permits, the bureau has given out 1,158 permits during the first three months of the law’s implementation. An SPS permit expires in 60 days.
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