Groups press safeguard duties on rice imports
With mounting losses incurred by farmers due to the rice tariffication law, several groups have renewed calls for the imposition of safeguard duties on rice to mitigate the adverse effects of the policy in the long run.
In an email to the Inquirer, Alyansa Agrikultura chair Ernesto Ordoñez said the government should not wait further before it decides to make use of general safeguard measures, which could address the low prices of palay.
In September, the average farm-gate price of palay reached its lowest in eight years at P15.56 a kilo due to the unimpeded importation of more affordable rice and palay rates have not gone up significantly since then.
“The decrease in [farmers’ income] right after liberalization was at 56 percent. It decreased from P32,000 per hectare to P14,280. Must we wait for even a year before we take the legally allowed and recommended safeguard measure of increased duties? Since much data have already been collected, we think the action is already delayed. It should therefore be taken now,” he said.
Federation of Free Farmers national chair Raul Montemayor relayed the same sentiment, saying that any form of government interventions should be complemented by the management of imports—the root cause of the depressing palay prices.
“Why wait for more farmers to suffer when we have a tool to alleviate the situation?” Montemayor said in a phone interview with Inquirer. “They have already admitted that the farmers were affected. The cash transfers, the loans and the procurement, all these cannot accommodate every farmer. We have to manage the imports.”
Under the rice tariffication law, import duties may be increased, reduced or revised by the President to protect Filipino farmers and consumers.
Its imposition would increase tariffs and would make imports more expensive and discourage traders from bringing in the staple to the domestic market. This will force local traders to buy from local farmers at higher rates.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura has also remained firm on its position to slap additional duties on rice.
While the move to impose safeguards on rice gained traction at the Department of Agriculture in October, it was eventually rejected by economic managers for being “inflationary”, claiming there would be enough government interventions to help those in need.
Based on the latest study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, it said farmers have already lost P8.22 billion in palay revenues due to the new rice law.
Montemayor said that following the PIDS study, farmers could then lose around P75 billion on average yearly.
In response, the government has decided to distribute cash aid worth P5,000 to 600,000 farmers who were considered to be the “most affected,” while the National Food Administration was tasked to intensify palay procurement operations.
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