Fair trading of rice urged as imports flood market
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is calling on the rice industry stakeholders to uphold free and fair trade amid the continued negative perception on rice importation under the Rice Tariffication Law.

“It is true that under RTL, we encourage free trade primarily to lower the price of rice in the market. But let me also emphasize that we operate on the premise of fair trade, regardless of the volume that we are looking into,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

This as the country’s rice imports are expected to reach record-high this year as Manila opened its floodgates to cheap rice from other countries.

The Philippines is even expected to surpass the imports of China, the world’s largest population.

Reports from the Bureau of Customs showed that rice import volume reached 1.87 million metric tons from March to October this year.

Meanwhile, the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry accounted for  two million MT in the application for sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance for imported rice.

“We need to keep rice production profitable and rice prices affordable to a growing consumer market. It is imperative to make our rice production systems more efficient, inclusive, and sustainable,” Dar said.

During his recent visit to Brunei, Dar asked his counterparts from rice exporting countries Vietnam and Thailand, in particular, to hold the release of export permits to rice traders without the Philippines-issued SPSIC.

“With agreement from my counterparts in rice-exporting countries, we hope to arrest the influx of undocumented imported rice coming in the country. This is our move as we prepare our local rice industry to produce more with less cost,” Dar said.

Dar cited the implementation of the component programs under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) aimed at improving the competitiveness and income of rice farmers amid the liberalization of rice trade.

The four programs on seeds, mechanization, credit, and extension services are expected to increase farmers’ yield up to six MT per hectare and reduce their production cost to P8 per kilogram of palay.

“RCEF is a major strategy to lessen our rice imports in the coming years. I am assuring our farmers that we are on schedule when it comes to the rollout of its component programs,” Dar said.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute has been distributing certified seeds throughout the country until next month for the dry season planting of around one million hectares.

The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, on the other hand, has validated 620 farmer cooperatives and associations as recipients of farm machines.

The Development Bank of the Philippines has released P500 million in loan to a cooperative in Isabela while the Lank Bank of the Philippines has loaned out P5 million to individual farmers and groups.

Extension services through training programs and scholarships are also ongoing in collaboration with the DA-Agricultural Training Institute, PhilRice, PhilMech, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

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