Gov’t moves to temper rice importation volume

Published November 13, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Philippine government has already issued stricter set of guidelines on the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC) for imported rice, a move that has already been coordinated with the country’s major rice trading partners, Vietnam and Thailand.

Agriculture Secretary Dr. William D. Dar .  (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU, MB Photo)
Agriculture Secretary Dr. William D. Dar . (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU, MB Photo)

This, according to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, should result to a decline in the amount of imported rice that is being brought into the country amid a liberalized regime.

At the 11th World Rice Conference, Dar told reporters on Wednesday he already signed a memorandum circular imposing stringent requirements on rice trading.

The circular, which according to Dar is strictly a food safety control measure, will cover heavy metal content, pesticide residue level, extraneous and filth contaminants in the imported rice that is going to be bought from other countries. It also covers the microbiological parameters.

All the traders who will try to obtain SPSIC from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) should take note of all the items written in the circular.

Under the Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act (RA) 11203, which allows the entry of more imported rice in the Philippines, local rice traders should only obtain an SPSIC from BPI before they could be allowed to purchase rice abroad. An SPSIC is a certification that rice imports are free from pests and diseases.
Restricting the SPSIC issuance will discourage traders to import rice, said Senator Cynthia Villar, the author of RA 11203.

Even before the issuance of the aforementioned circular, Dar said BPI already started restricting the issuance of SPSIC which he said already resulted to lower volume of imported rice entering the country.

“Prior to my appointment, the average rice imports that enter the country is at 254,000 metric tons (MT) from March to September. By October, around this time, because of proper and stricter implementation on the issuance of SPSIC, only 85,000 MT of rice imports entered the country,” Dar said.

For this year, the country expects to receive total rice imports of 3 million MT for this year, which will make the Philippines the world’s largest rice importer, beating China.

The other day, Dar urged rice industry stakeholders to uphold free and fair trade amidst negative perception on rice importation under RA 11203 as he disclosed about the influx of undocumented imported rice coming in the country.

In a statement, he mentioned about the seemingly abnormal shoot up of rice imports in the country for 2019.

Reports from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) show that rice import volume since the implementation of the RA 11203 only reached 1.87 million MT from March to October this year.

Meanwhile, the BPI only accounted 2 million MT in the application for SPSIC for imported rice.

Dar said the 2.99 million MT imports reported by BOC then reflects the total rice imports in the country for the year, even before the implementation of RTL.

And then during his recent visit in Brunei, Dar asked his counterparts from Vietnam and Thailand to hold the release of export permits to rice traders without the Philippines-issued SPSIC.

“With agreement from my counterparts in rice-exporting countries, we hope to arrest the influx of undocumented imported rice coming in the country. This is our move as we prepare our local rice industry to produce more with less cost,” Dar said.