By Madelaine B. Miraflor
In what could be a desperate attempt to bring in more imported rice into the country, the NFA Council, the highest policy making body of the National Food Authority (NFA), has approved the guidelines that will reduce the requirements for local traders who intend to import the staple.
“The NFA Council approved the out quota allocation. Meaning, if you comply to requirements set by the NFA, which we have reduced from 14 to only five, you could bring in [imported] rice to the country,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.
When asked if this will also open the rice importation to everyone who are interested to do it, Piñol said “yes but there are requirements which will have to be met.”
Under the guidelines, the government will also look at the net income of traders and their computation on how much they will gain from the importation.
“This will eliminate the fly-by-night importers because now, under the new guidelines, we should be able to see their total net income amounting to 10 percent of the value of what they will import,” Piñol said.
“So those group of farmers cooperatives who will ask for allocation and then they will just sell their permits, it will not work anymore because we will also check the capability of the traders before we will issue them with import permit,” he added.
The free-for-all importation is also the essence of rice tariffication bill, which was passed in the Senate on Thursday.
Senate Bill No. 1998 or the rice tariffication bill has amended Republic Act (RA) No. 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, seeking to replace the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports with a specific tariff rate.
The passage of the bill, which effectively liberalize rice importation, came at a time when the Philippines, one of the top rice importing countries in the world, is struggling to find cheap imported rice.
After another failed bidding, Piñol said the NFA should conduct two major rice bidding processes in the span of five days next week in hopes that foreign suppliers will finally adjust their bid price at favorable cost.
During these bidding processes, the NFA must award supply contracts for as much as 700,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice.
NFA on Tuesday failed for the third time to secure supply for 203,000 MT of rice after Vietnam and Thailand — the only countries with existing rice trade agreement with the Philippines — won’t sell their rice at cheaper price.
Vietnam and Thailand particularly made bid offers higher than NFA’s reference price of US$447.88 per MT.
The subject volume for bidding was the balance from the 250,000 MT offered for bidding last October 18 under an open tender scheme.
With majority of the bid offers exceeding the NFA’s approved budget of US$428.18 per MT, only 47,000 MT was awarded to three suppliers who offered prices lower than the approved budget.