DA chief seeks shorter period for rice tariff cut

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star
DA chief seeks shorter period for rice tariff cut
Photos show workers unloading sacks of rice from a truck along Dagupan St. in Manila on February 7, 2024.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed rice tariffs reduction should be between six months and a year instead of the five-year period being pushed by other Cabinet secretaries, according to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.

Tiu Laurel said he is also supporting the rice industry groups’ proposal that the tariff reduction must have a regular review to ensure the efficacy of the measure in taming the retail prices of the staple.

“I think we will take it up in the Cabinet (meeting) with the President,’’ he told reporters in an interview Tuesday evening.

“(The five-year duration) is too long. It will affect rice farmers,” he added.

However, the agriculture chief said the tariff reduction is necessary as a short-term measure to address high rice prices.

Tiu Laurel said the increase in domestic rice prices was not due to internal factors, but because of external shocks such as the ban imposed by India on its non-Basmati rice exports, putting pressure on the global rice supply.

“Our problem is not limited to us. It is a worldwide issue,” he said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Asis Perez earlier disclosed that the DA proposed to revert the rice tariffs to as much as 50 percent during the deliberations at the Cabinet-level committee on tariff and related matters.

Last week, Tiu Laurel met with agriculture industry leaders to discuss the announcement of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan regarding the approval of the reduction of rice tariffs by the National Economic and Development Authority.

Under the approval, rice tariffs will be slashed to 15 percent – the lowest in the country’s  rice tariff history – beginning this year until 2028 as part of the government’s new comprehensive tariff program.

Since the NEDA board meeting on  June 3, President Marcos has yet to issue an executive order (EO) that would formalize the tariff adjustments.

Rice industry groups are racing against time to convince Marcos to reverse his earlier decision to reduce rice tariffs, arguing that it would result in billions of losses for Filipino palay farmers.

Marcos has until July 21 to exercise his power to modify tariff rates through the issuance of an EO.

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