RICE TARIFF collections totaled P11.036 billion in the seven months to July, up 4% year on year despite lower import volume, according to Customs data obtained by BusinessWorld.

The volume of imported rice dropped 26.2% from a year earlier to 1.705 million metric tons.

In mid-July, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) exceeded the P10 billion worth of tariffs that must by law go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which will support farm mechanization and other measures to allow farmers to better compete against imports.

The RCEF is authorized by Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

The BoC collected P12.1 billion from rice tariffs last year. Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar has asked the Budget department to release the P2 billion worth of excess revenue.

The Agriculture department wants to use the excess as follows: P1 billion for the crop diversification program and P1.1 billion to expand crop insurance.

RA 11203 was signed into law in February 2019, allowing unrestricted imports by private parties, who need to pay 35% tariffs on Southeast Asian grain. The tariffs fund the RCEF budget of P10 billion a year. — Beatrice M. Laforga