Agriculture group calls for more tariff protection for rice

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rice farmer

A SEGMENT of the agriculture industry is seeking the immediate imposition of higher tariffs on imported rice to provide relief for farmers suffering from competition from foreign grain.

“We are convinced we must change the tariff, because it’s P12 (per kilo) and the farmgate price for palay (unmilled rice) is now P11-P12.40 [per kilo]. They are losing money,” Ernesto M. Ordonez, chairman and co-founder of Alyansa Agrikultura, told BusinessWorld in an interview.

“If you do it now, you stop (imports). You don’t do it now, they will continue until you do it,” he added.

Alyansa Agrikultura is a group of 42 federations and organizations from the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Mr. Ordonez did not say what an appropriate tariff might be.

Under the Rice Tariffication Law, the government liberalized imports of rice while collecting a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar told reporters in September that rice imports in the March to August period totaled 2.4 million metric tons (MMT), well above the level of imports needed to meet domestic demand, estimated at 1.5 MMT to 2 MMT.

The Philippines is 93% self-sufficient in rice, and needs to import the remaining 7%.

The Agriculture department is looking into imposing possible safeguard measures on rice imports by October, a course of action authorized by the Safeguard Measures Act if the government deems an industry to have suffered harm from unfair foreign competition. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang