The implementation of the much-maligned rice tariffication law (RTL) is beginning to pay off, the Department of Agriculture (DA) claimed Sunday, April 18.
In year number two of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the RTL, the DA said that the country’s rice sector is “gradually realizing its potentials”, as it noted that palay (unhusked rice) production and farmgate prices have increased this dry season.
This has resulted in more affordable rice for consumers amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the agency said.
“To top it all, with sustained initiatives and strong cooperation of various rice industry stakeholders, we look forward to achieving an all-time record of at least 20.4 million MT (metric tons) of palay this year,” DA Sec. William Dar said in a statement.
“The RTL is a transformative but disruptive policy reform. While we have anticipated transition to take time, the benefits that it brings to both consumers and palay farmers during this time of crisis cannot be denied,” Dar added.
The law, which did away with quantitative restrictions for rice imports in exchange for tariffs, was enacted in February 2019. Critics have branded it as the “rice import liberalization law,” since it basically opened the local market to cheaper, imported rice.
“Despite the pandemic, we are slowly but surely hurdling the challenges in the implementation of RTL with tangible results in terms of palay productivity, farmgate price, and retail prices of rice,” Dar said.
He said rice–the staple food of Filipinos–is no longer the traditional driver of inflation.
“In fact, the stable supply of rice under the RTL regime has helped temper food inflation in the past several months, which continues to experience upward pressure from the tight supply of meat,” he noted.
A key component of the RTL is the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF). Through RCEF, the law has facilitated the mechanization of the local farming process and provided farmers with quality inbred seeds, among other types of assistance meant to increase yield.
For the current dry season, the DA through its Philippine Integrated Rice Program (PIRP) projects that palay production could reach 10 million metric tons (MMT), which is expected to extend to the next main cropping or wet season. This is because farmers would supposedly be encouraged by the higher farmgate prices.
In a report to secretary Dar, DA-PIRP director Dionisio Alvindia said they expect the palay sector to continue its positive growth this year despite the community lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The higher prices of palay at farmgate provide more incentives for our farmers to continue planting,” he said.
The optimism is bouyed by the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), saying that palay production reached 4.57 MMT in January to March 2021, or 7.2 percent higher than the 4.26 MMT recorded during the first quarter last year.
The PSA attributed the gains to the increase in harvest area (1.1 million hectares) and planting intentions (85% of total area actually planted) during the period.
Alvindia said that at least two million hectares of land were planted with rice during the dry cropping season, with farmers producing an average of five MT per hectare–roughly one ton more than the national average.
He further reported that a total of 9,236 machineries and equipment were delivered to 3,180 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) under the mechanization component of RCEF.
As for seeds, some 1.65 million bags (20 kilograms per bag) of certified seeds have been distributed to 661,567 farmers, he said.