P2.1 billion in excess rice tariffs to be used for crop diversification

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture will utilize P2.1 billion in excess tariffs from rice imports to diversify farmers’ crops and expand their insurance coverage.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the DA has already requested the Department of Budget and Management to release the excess rice tariff collections of about P2.1 billion.

Of the amount, P1.1 will be allocated for the expanded crop insurance on rice and another P1 billion will be spent for crop diversification to be implemented by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. and DA’s high value crops team, respectively.

Last year, the government generated P12.1 billion in revenues for the importation of about 2.9 million metric tons of rice after the country opened the industry to cheap imports.

Under the Rice Tariffication Law, P10 billion has been programmed for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, while any excess can be used for crop diversification, crop insurance, agricultural land titling, and other programs deemed appropriate by the DA.

“We have been encouraging rice farmers, particularly those tilling rainfed and marginal lands, to plant other crops that would generate bigger income, and more importantly instill in them the need to insure their crops,” Dar said.

Experts claimed that crop diversification provides numerous agricultural and economic benefits to farmers and aside from improving and breeding new crop varieties, it enhances the resistance of plants to various weather conditions.

It will also increase crop portfolio so that farmers will not be dependent on a single crop to generate their income as cultivating only one type of crop exposes them to high risks of unforeseen climate events that could severely impact agricultural production.

Earlier this year, the DBM released the P10 billion to the DA to fund the RCEF programs which are already in full swing.

For seeds, the Philippine Rice Research Institute delivered 2.34 million bags of high-quality seeds to 710,178 farmer-beneficiaries, in 983 municipalities and cities, in 55 provinces.

For machines, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization awarded 2,938 units of farm machinery and equipment worth P2 billion to 625 farmers’ cooperatives and associations.

On credit, the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines have already lent out their respective P500-million RCEF credit funds to 5,214 individuals and FCAs.

On, training and extension, both the Agricultural Training Institute and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority have granted 16,245 scholarship slots to farmer field schools, rice machinery operation, drying, and milling plant servicing, and small engine servicing.

The DA-ATI also established 50 farm schools and agri-tourism sites across the country.

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