Legislator seeks review of Rice Tariffication Law after gov’t rice imports

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MAGSASAKA Partylist Representative Argel T. Cabatbat called for a review of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) after the government resumed imports on its own account by declaring an auction for 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice via government to government (G2G) deals.

In a mobile phone message, Mr. Cabatbat said the plan to import rice by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry, through the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), is a “step back” from the original intent of the RTL.

“It disempowers Filipino farmers who deserve to be prioritized and protected because of the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” Mr. Cabatbat said.

Mr. Cabatbat asked the DA to clarify why imports were resorted to despite the department’s assurance that there is no impending rice shortage.

“It is more expensive to import rice and it only adds to the burden of our rice farmers, instead of helping them.” Mr. Cabatbat said.

On Monday, the PITC conducted an online auction for rice imports amounting to 300,000 MT, with four countries showing interest.

Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and India have posted bids to supply well-milled long-grain rice with 25% brokens, for delivery to five ports.

Half or 150,000 MT must be shipped not later than July 14 while the other half is due to arrive on or before August 14.

The national government, via the PITC, has allotted P7.45 billion for the G2G imports, while the reference price was set at $497.62 per MT, equivalent to around P25,000.

Mr. Cabatbat said that the reference price indicates that the government is willing to buy rice at double the domestic production cost.

“We have the current supply, and we can produce a metric ton of rice at P12,720,” Mr. Cabatbat said.

“The amount that the DA is planning to spend for imported rice could uplift the rice industry from the visible damage the RTL has visited upon hundreds of thousands of Filipino farmers who found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy during the last planting season,” Mr. Cabatbat said.

On May 12, the DA said that the 300,000 MT of rice will serve as a contingency supply during the lean months.

“This is because the bulk of the rice supply will come from the harvest during the fourth quarter, coupled with continued imports,” the DA said.

According to the DA’s food supply outlook, rice supply at the end of 2020 is sufficient for 94 days.

G2G imports under emergency conditions are permitted under the RTL to ensure adequate supply. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave