NFA rice imports

SENATORS asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to limit imports of staple foods during harvest season to address weak farmgate prices.

The DA was asked to set a staggered schedule for importing rice and corn and that will not overlap with the harvest season. A legislator also urged that poultry products be imported with an eye towards the state of domestic supply.

Gumawa ng schedule na kapag tatamaan ‘yung pagdating ng importation sa harvest time, ‘wag na ibigay ‘yun (permit) para wala tayong problema” with regard to farmgate prices, Senator Cynthia A. Villar said at an online hearing Monday.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar replied that the scheduling proposal should be made into a resolution by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Ms. Villar was presiding over the hearing on the DA’s 2021 budget, which is worth P66.4 billion. The scheduling proposal was supported by Senators Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Francis N. Pangilinan and Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Senator Maria Imelda Josefa R. Marcos added that poultry products be imported to consider the domestic supply situation.

“Importation of basic commodities should at the very least be scheduled and staggered according to need,” she said.

“With regard to rice and corn, the BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry) is enjoined not to import during or immediately before the harvest seasons, particularly the main harvest season in September and October.” 

The Bureau of Animal Industry was asked to monitor the excess supply of chicken and also prohibit imports of poultry products when domestic supply is high.

Ms. Marcos said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources should also look into excessive imports of fish and possible smuggling at the Navotas fish port and elsewhere.

At the same hearing, Ms. Villar said the Rice Tariffication Law, or Republic Act No. 11203, will remain in place amid calls for its amendment.

The law, which lifted restrictions on rice imports, is part of the Philippines commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO), she said.

“Meron tayong commitment sa WTO (We have a commitment to the WTO) that we will open up imports of rice with tariff and that has been postponed for a very long time, kaya ngayon, hindi na pwedeng i-postpone (and can no longer be put off),” she said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan