Give rice tariff law two years to work

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    The Department of Agriculture (DA) rejected calls for a review of the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL) and urged a farmers group to give the law two years to work.

    “Let’s give a chance for the law to achieve its usefulness… My recommendation is we give it a review after two years,” said DA Secretary William Dar in a press conference over the weekend.

    The RTL took effect in March 2019.

    The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) blamed the RTL for the decline in palay prices as it liberalized the entry of rice imports.

    Farmgate prices now range from P11 to P13 per kilogram (kg) for wet palay and P14 to P17 per kg for dry palay. Prices will fall further when harvest peaks this month until November.

    Dar said the National Food Authority (NFA) continues to buy palay at P19 per kg for dry and clean.

    He appealed to local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to buy palay and corn directly from farmers to prop up prices.

    Dar said provincial governments can avail of loans from the Land Bank of the Philippines of up to P2 billion at two percent interest to procure palay and acquire farm machineries and post-harvest facilities to help farmers.

    “This should be part of the new normal where LGUs are taking a more proactive stance by directly buying farmers’ produce be these rice, corn, vegetables, chicken, eggs, fish and other farm and fishery products at reasonable prices, and then including them in their food packs for their constituents,” Dar said.

    He also called on the grains industry to enter into long-term contract-growing and marketing agreements with organized, clustered farm cooperatives to buy rice for their employees and clients.

    NFA administrator Judy Carol Dansal said the agency has purchased two million bags of palay in September ahead of the peak harvest.

    Dansal said palay buying is ongoing in 558 warehouses and buying stations nationwide. Total palay purchases reached 4.93 million from January to September from a whole-year target of 18.72 million bags.

    “RTL is actually an instrument that will help lower the production cost of farmers per kg.

    But since the law is still new and the rice sector is still under a transition period, we cannot yet attain or savor the full benefits of the law, although we can already see and feel it,” Dansal said.

    The DA also assured its simulations show rice supply will be sufficient with yearend inventory level seen to be good for 92 to 97 days.

    But FFF national manager, Raul Montemayor said there is nothing wrong in starting a review of the RTL as early as now to show how the law affects both farmers and consumers.

    “We should not wait another two or more years, as Secretary Dar has insisted, before we start reviewing the RTL. There is no harm in immediately installing safeguards and contingency measures in the law, based on our experience so far and emerging concerns,” Montemayor said.