LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS (LGUs) need to implement place-of-origin labelling in rice to boost domestic producers, according to an official with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

PhilRice policy research and advocacy project lead Alice B. Mataia said in a statement that indicating origins will help consumers distinguish domestically-produced rice from imports, to reinforce perceptions in buyers that they are selecting a product with a shorter supply chain, increasing the likelihood of freshness.

In turn, a consumer preference for domestic rice may encourage traders to procure from farmers here rather than import.

According to Ms. Mataia, guidelines on rice labelling have been in place since 2018, as issued by the National Food Authority (NFA) and indicated in the 2019 Philippine Standards on Grains Grading and Classification.

However, she said the regulatory functions of the NFA, including its role in implementing the national grains standard, were repealed after the passage of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

“While the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) took charge of NFA’s functions through inspections and issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances, it did not cover the implementation of labelling guidelines in rice,” Ms. Mataia said.

She also urged the formation of a task force that would guarantee that retailers follow correct standards in labelling.

“The glitches involving who should do what in implementing labelling guidelines have resulted in some traders opting to not comply with the guidelines. Some retailers fail to meet the basic minimum standard and disregard milling grade and source in price tags,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ms. Mataia said another way to promote domestically-produced rice includes complete information on sacks, packages, boxes, or price tags, such as information on where the rice is sourced.

“A PhilRice-International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) study showed that Philippine rice recorded the least pesticide usage than the other rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia. With the LGUs enforcing existing guidelines on labelling of rice boxes and price tags through an ordinance or a resolution, we help consumers exercise their power to choose,” Ms. Mataia said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave