‘Rice subsidy not enough’

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    The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) downplayed moves by senators to compensate farmers affected by plummeting palay prices and the pandemic using tariffs collected from rice imports.

    Raul Montemayor, FFF national manager, instead proposed the imposition of safeguard duties or additional tariffs on imported rice.

    The Senate Committees on Agriculture and on Agrarian Reform last week passed a joint resolution appropriating P3 billion from duties collected on rice imports in the 2021 national budget for cash aid to rice farmers.

    The FFF said this would translate to only P5,000 per farmer if distributed to some 600,000 farmers tilling one hectare or less or P2,700 if the actual number of qualified farmers is raised to 1.1 million as reported by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

    “The government allowed unlimited rice imports, resulting in low palay prices. Now it will spend P3 billion to partially offset farmers’ losses. If it had instead imposed additional duties on imports, palay prices would not have dropped too much, there would have been no need for cash aid to farmers and the government might have even earned extra revenues from the safeguard duties,” Montemayor said.

    He added the Safeguard Measures Act allows additional duties on top of regular tariffs in case an import surge.

    He said safeguard duties will not be inflationary contrary to DA’s claims at it will only be applied when there is oversupply and can be lifted immediately once the market stabilizes. -J. Macapagal