Gov't reduces tariff for rice imports to offset climate change impact

Published May 17, 2021, 4:08 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government wanted to shore up the country’s supply of rice given the threat posed by climate change when it reduced import tariffs on the staple food.

(Manila Bulletin file photo by Keith Bacongco)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque defended the President Duterte’s decision to lower the tariff rates on rice imports for a year, citing that climate change could have adverse consequences on the country’s farmlands.

Under Executive Order No. 135, the President reduced the tariff rate for rice imports within the minimum access volume or within quota to 35 percent, from 40 percent. Rice imports outside the quota, on the other hand, will be charged 50 percent tariff rate for a period of one year.

“Sinisiguro lang natin na sapat ang ating magiging supply ng bigas kasi siguro sa lahat ng ating kinakain, we can afford tayong magkulang sa ilan pero hindi pupuwede sa bigas at nakita naman ninyo na napakatindi nitong panahon ng tag-init na ito so hindi natin alam kung ano epekto dito sa ating na pananim na palay pero im sure may epekto iyan (We just want to make sure we will have sufficient rice supply because we can afford to lack in some, but not rice. We have seen the very warm weather. I don’t know the extent of the impact on rice plantation but I’m sure there’s an effect),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Monday, May 17.

Besides, Roque said the year-long reduction in import tariffs on rice was minimal.

“Kung papansin ninyo naman, from 40 naging 35 so maliit lang naman ang taripa na binaba. Hindi ganoon kalaki so ito just to ensure itong adverse consequences ng climate change ay hindi magdudulot ng kakulangan sa supply ng bigas (If you’ve noticed, from 40 percent, it was reduced to 35 percent so the tariff cut is small. It’s not that huge so it’s just to ensure the adverse consequences of climate change will not cause any shortage in the rice supply),” he said.

The Palace earlier announced the President approved the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to lower the tariff rates on imported rice to ensure food security and protect consumers. The tariff adjustment was made to diversify the country’s market sources, augment rice supply, maintain prices affordable, and reduce pressures on inflation, the Palace said.

In EO 135, the President justified the decision to lower rice import tariffs mainly to boost supply and keep prices stable. Despite an increase in total rice stock, the order noted that the estimated local production may still fall short of the demand that necessitated importation.

The order also said there has been a continuous increase in the price of rice from other countries, especially those imported from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

It also mentioned that the present global economic situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other factors affecting the country’s traditional sources of imported rice, have caused “uncertainty in the steady supply of rice.”

“Considering the increase in global rice prices and the uncertainties relative to the supply of rice, there is an urgent need to temporarily reduce the Most Favoured Nation tariff rates on rice, to diversify the country’s market sources, augment rice supply, maintain affordable prices, and reduce inflationary pressures, all for the purpose of ensuring food security in the country and protecting consumers,” the order read.

The executive order, signed on May 15, takes effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or newspaper. It will be effective for one year from such date.

Farmers’ groups earlier opposed the temporary tariff cut on rice imports, insisting that allowing the entry of cheaper imports was ill-timed and not reasonable.