February 28, 2019

Rice tariffication will directly benefit both farmers and the poor through lower rice prices and increased government assistance to the agricultural sector, the National Economic and Development Authority said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia further said that the newly-signed Rice Tariffication Law provides for the establishment of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which will funnel PHP10 billion annually to the rice sector for the next six years.

The RCEF is allocated for the procurement of farm machinery and equipment, rice development, propagation and promotion, as well as expanded rice credit and extension services.

The Philippines has been applying for extensions of the Quantitative Restrictions or QR on rice since 1995, while other countries granted the same exemption, such as Japan and Korea, already imposed rice import tariffs in 1999 and 2015, respectively.

“We have been postponing rice tariffication for 24 years. That is how long the Filipino people have been overcharged for rice and how long we’ve been keeping the agriculture sector from growing,” the Cabinet official said during the #AskNEDA media briefing for February 2019.

He assured farmers that the law provides safeguard mechanisms to protect rice farmers from any possible adverse effects of the removal of the QR.

“The law provides for rice tariff revenues in excess of PHP10 billion to be used in providing direct financial assistance to rice farmers affected by the removal of the QR and for diversification to high-value crops,” said Pernia.

Also, domestic rice prices have been persistently increasing over the years, pushing inflation up and ultimately hurting the poor the most, including many rice farmers who have to buy rice.

“This points to the inefficiency of the National Food Authority (NFA) in performing its mandates of ensuring a reasonable return to farmers’ investment and providing low prices for consumers,” he said.

NFA’s palay procurement program has been too small to influence farm gate prices with its share of procured palay from the total rice production only averaging at 1.89 percent from 2000 to 2017.

“We would like those in the agriculture sector to have better income and employment opportunities, and provide a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay for everyone – a life free from hunger,” said Pernia.

The NEDA launched an online public consultation for the drafting of the IRR of the law on February 26 to give the public another opportunity to provide inputs.