Smuggling, hoarding in DOF crosshair amid rice imports
The government is shoring up tariff collections from a surge in rice imports while looking into possible hoarding and smuggling amid falling retail prices, according to Finance Secretary Carols G. Dominguez III.
In a speech at the 14th World Rice Conference, Dominguez said that revenues from import tariffs on rice already amounted to P11.4 billion as of end-October.
Republic Act No. 11203, which removed volume restrictions on rice import and imposed tariffs, would collect 35 percent tax from rice imported from Asean countries, 40 percent from those not exceeding 350,000 tons from countries outside Asean and 180 percent if more than 350,000 tons from a non-Asean country.
Since collections so far in 2019 exceeded P10 billion, or the amount to be set aside for a program to make local farmers competitive, Dominguez said the government had “ample means to do even more to make our agricultural production more efficient.”
The impact of rice importation was felt most by local farmers as prices of palay, or unhusked rice, fell to some of their lowest levels in years.
Dominguez said the government was extending help to these farmers.
Palay prices, Dominguez said citing Philippine Statistics Authority data, had declined to P15.71 per kilogram in the third week of September to the second week of October. “This translates to an average loss for farmers of about P1.52 per kilo,” he said.
“In some provinces, farm gate prices fell by as much as P5.63 while in others unhusked rice prices actually rose by P3.75 per kilo,” Dominguez said.
He said the government was deploying “evidence-based and tightly-targeted” assistance to local farmers.
National government agencies are coordinating with Congress on giving cash aid to rice farmers and also rice to farming families hurt by the importation of rice.
The Department of Agriculture, Dominguez said, is implementing the Survival and Recovery, or Sure, aid program that offers to rice farmers P15,000 in interest-free loans payable in eight years.
“Complementary programs” are also being put in place. One of these, the finance chief said, was for local government units to purchase palay from farmers at “above production costs.”
Local governments could obtain loans for this purpose, said Dominguez.
He said there’s close monitoring of “possible distortions in the market, particularly the widening gap between farm gate prices for paddy and rice retail prices in specific provinces.”
Strike teams had been formed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs to crack down on smuggling and hoarding.
A BIR strike team had already raided unregistered warehouses in Bulacan province and found more than 250,000 sacks of rice imported from Vietnam and Myanmar.
“The companies involved have not produced legitimate import documents,” Dominguez said.
“Over the next months, we see anti-smuggling and anti-hoarding activities to intensify,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, Dominguez added, had “issued clear instructions to unmask and prosecute those involved in economic sabotage and bring them to justice.”/TSB
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