Safeguard duty on rice imports seen in place soon
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is expected to address the influx of imported rice in the market this week by imposing a safeguard duty, although the agency has yet to make any pronouncement until now.
In an ambush interview at the Senate on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar refused to comment when asked about the measure, but he earlier said the DA would place general safeguards on rice imports by the end of September or early October.
The duty is expected to address the continuous decline in palay prices which, as of September, had already dropped by 30 percent to P16.18 a kilo from P23.14 a kilo in the same period last year.
Under Republic Act No. 8752, or the Anti-Dumping Act of 1999, the government can impose duties on imports that are priced way below the prevailing fair market value. Also under the rice tariffication law, import duties may be increased, reduced or revised to protect Filipino farmers and consumers.
Safeguard duties would increase tariffs and would make imports more expensive. This would discourage traders from bringing in the staple to the domestic market and would force local traders to buy from local farmers at higher rates.
The Federation of Free Farmers has recommended a safeguard duty between 60 to 70 percent on top of the current tariffs slapped on rice, while the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura said it wanted the government to impose the maximum tariff rate allowed.
The Philippines is currently 93-percent self-sufficient in rice and imports around 7 to 10 percent of its rice requirement. To date, about 2.4 million metric tons of rice had already been imported which, according to the DA, “has gone beyond what is needed by the country.” —KARL R. OCAMPO
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