Curbing rice imports not the solution to farmers’ woes, research group says
Limiting the country’s rice imports during the harvest season would not help rice farmers but would only stir a “disaster,” according to a nongovernmental economic group.
Action for Economic Reform (AER), a group engaged in research and advocacy, issued the statement after President Duterte promised Filipino palay farmers that his administration would help them cope with falling palay prices by controlling the inflow of imported rice during harvest and by buying their produce even if that would bring losses to the government.
“This policy pronouncement of curbing rice imports will erode the gains from the Rice Tariffication Law,” AER said. “This will not stabilize prices … it is the manipulation of import controls that has created volatile and high prices for the overwhelming majority of Filipinos.”
The group added that the move would only bring higher prices to farmers over the short term, but would eventually “aggravate their long-standing problem of inefficiency and low productivity.”
“If we wish to really help our farmers, the intervention should be creating the conditions for our farmers to increase their productivity, to make them competitive, which in turn will increase their income. To rely on import control will not solve the problem of weak productivity,” AER said.
It urged the President “to stay the course in implementing the law,” adding that resorting to import restrictions would only breed complacency on the part of the country’s producers.
“President Duterte got it right when he proposed rice procurement, but to combine this with import restriction will be a disaster,” it said.
Last year, the country’s rice imports reached a record of 3 million metric tons (MT) or more than double the country’s supply gap of around 1.2 million MT, but AER said the surge was only part of a “process of seeking a new normal” where importers, buyers and consumers would all benefit.
Nonetheless, the huge spike in rice imports brought farmer groups to the streets, and they have continuously appealed to the administration for more meaningful interventions.
The country’s economic managers and most industry stakeholders have been sitting on the extreme sides of the spectrum, with the former wanting the law to be implemented fully without amendments to it, while the latter has been pushing for additional tariffs on imported rice to curb its arrival.
Duterte, despite several pronouncements, has yet to issue an order that would bring his promises to action.
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