By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
While consumers have saved more than ₱30 billion because of the influx of cheaper, imported rice in the market, Filipino rice farmers claimed they incurred nearly ₱70-billion loss since the implementation of rice importation under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
This is based on the computation made by the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), a group of Filipino rice farmers and producers.
The RTL, which was enacted into law in early 2019, removed the quantitative restrictions and most government controls on rice imports.
As a result, an estimated 3 million metric tons (MT) of imported rice entered the country during the year, effectively making the Philippines the largest rice importer in the world, beating China.
In 2019, the average retail prices of regular milled rice (RMR) declined by ₱2.61 per kilogram (/kg) compared to 2018, while prices for well-milled rice (WMR) went down by ₱1.99 per kilo.
FFF said that when this is multiplied by consumption volumes, the RTL resulted in a gain of ₱34.16 billion for consumers.
Palay farmgate prices, on the other hand, dipped by ₱3.62 in 2019 resulting in total losses to farmers of ₱68.18 billion.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) further showed that average prices for both RMR and WMR in 2019 were actually higher than those in 2016 to 2017, which could be considered “normal years” when compared to 2018 during which rice price spikes occurred.
FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor said the results of the first year of RTL implementation are totally the opposite of what the proponents of RTL were promising, adding that official data indicates that government officials “were overly optimistic, if not mistaken, in their projections”.
“Rice prices did go down in 2019 when compared to 2018, but 2018 was an abnormal year during which prices spiked because NFA [National Food Authority] was not allowed to promptly import rice,” Montemayor said.
“When compared to 2016 and 2017 price levels, the data shows that we are just back to rice prices that prevailed when the quantitative restrictions on rice imports were still in place. So, where is the promised benefit from the RTL for consumers,” he further said.
Because of this, Montemayor reiterated his call for a thorough review of the RTL and the early amendment of the law as deemed necessary.