Review of rice tarrification law sought

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    The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) urged Congress to review the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) as palay farmgate prices have dropped to alarming levels.

    FFF said the price of wet palay now ranges between P11 and P13 per kilogram (kg) and that of dry palay is at P14 to P17 per kg. These levels are expected to further slump when harvest peaks this month and November.

    FFF said the current farmgate price is also lower than the P19 per kg buying price of the National Food Authority (NFA).

    Data from the Philippine Statistic Authority showed as of the first week of September, the farmgate price of palay is at P17.64 per kg., down 2.2 percent from the previous week’s P18.04 per kg. but 8.35 percent higher compared to last year’s P16.28 per kg.

    “Many traders are playing safe and buying low because imports might flood the market again like last year and make it unprofitable for them to dispose of their stocks. Other traders have decided not to take risk and have reportedly stopped buying for the meantime. Difficulties in drying and transporting grains and the limited outreach of the NFA have also contributed to the drop in prices,” said Raul Montemayor, FFF national manager.

    Montemayor said the RTL must be amended to make it mandatory for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to avail of the safeguard provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and local laws.

    He said FFF bats for the temporary reinstatement of quantitative restrictions on imports under certain conditions.

    The group said government should consider the imposition of additional customs duties on imports for a specified period in the event of an import surge and proof that the surge has caused significant harm to local farmers.

    Last year, the DA considered imposing said safeguards but terminated the initiative.

    The FFF said the Senate version of the RTL which was enacted into law, removed the House version’s protecting measures that included volume restrictions on imports as required by the WTO and the NFA’s powers to be involved in the marketing, management and control of the rice industry to the private sector.

    “Congress and particularly the Senate, is to a large extent responsible for the problems we are facing at the moment. They have a moral responsibility to promptly rectify any deficiency or omission in the law before these bring more harm to our farmers. They also need to address indications that the benefits of rice trade liberalization have been captured mostly by market intermediaries, while consumers have not benefitted significantly from cheaper rice prices,” Montemayor said.

    He proposed the restoration of a provision in the House version of RTL allowing farmers to be represented in the management and monitoring of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund especially that implementation of programs to be funded by the said program has already been delayed. -J. Macapagal