Unlimited rice importation begins

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The unlimited rice importation has began, starting with 180 companies as of yesterday which intend to bring in as much as 1.2 million metric tons (MT) of rice into the country.

NFA logo (Photo courtesy of wikipedia) NFA logo (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

Based on the latest data provided by the National Food Authority (NFA), 180 companies have already filed application to import 1.2 million MT of rice. Of this, NFA said only three companies have not yet been cleared to import.

From December last year up to this month, 18 importers are expecting the delivery of more than 80,000 MT of rice, 25 percent of this already arrived in the country, a separate data showed.

Designated discharge ports are Manila, Subic, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Davao, Batangas, and Cebu.

Most of the additional supply came from and will come from Thailand and Vietnam. Most of these are 25 percent and 5 percent brokens of White Rice, while there are also some companies who intend to purchase specific amount of Glutinous Rice, Super Basmati Rice, Fragrant Rice, and Well Milled Long Grain Rice overseas.

Under the out quota importation, everyone can import rice if they have the financial, warehousing, retailing capacity to do so.

The companies who are set to bring in the largest amount of imported rice so far are Purerice Milling and Processing Corp. (100,000 MT), Muslim Christian Alliance MPC (50,000 MT), Pinguiaman Farmers MPC (50,000 MT), AJ Developers and Multi Operation Technical High Environment Resources, Inc. (30,000 MT), and Pengins General Merchandise (25,000 MT).

Other firms' import orders would only range from about 1,000 MT to 15,000 MT of rice.

NFA's out-quota importation program has the same idea as the Rice Tariffication Bill except that the latter, once passed, would no longer require interested importers to ask for the state-run grains agency's permit. The Rice Tariffication Bill seeks to replace the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports with a specific tariff rate, effectively liberalizing rice importation in the country.

Under this new rice importation regime, legitimate rice traders can now import rice sans NFA permits, provided they secure a sanitary and phyto-sanitary import clearance from the Department of Agriculture's (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and pay the appropriate tariff to the Bureau of Customs.

Where the NFA's out-quota importation program stands in a liberalized rice sector is still uncertain.

Aside from the fact that it will no longer issue importation permit to the private sector, the agency will also no longer be allowed to import and will instead rely solely on local palay procurement to boost its stocks.

"The purpose of importation is to bring down the prices of rice. “Bakit ko hihintayin ? Paano kung tumagal pa yan?

Magrereklamo na naman kayo pag tumaas ang presyo ng bigas ," Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said before after releasing the guidelines of the said importation program.

"We will be very strict in the implementation of the evaluation on the financial capability of the importer, his warehousing capacity and his retailing capability," he added.

According to him, this importation program "will effectively weed out fly by night importers who would apply for permits and then would just sell it."

For 2018, the NFA had a series of rice importation amounting to 1.25 million MT of rice, roughly half of which are set to arrive this year.