The country’s palay output inched up during the first quarter of the year, amid the Philippine government’s decision to allow more imported rice into the country at lower tariffs, pulling down prices of the seasonally adjusted farmgate price.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the seasonally adjusted palay production in the first quarter of 2021 was up by 0.5 percent, from 4.89 million metric tons (MT) in the fourth quarter.
The country recorded higher palay output during the first three months of the year, while rice stocks inventory from warehouses to households are also up significantly.
The seasonally adjusted farmgate price of palay for the first quarter of 2021 also went down by 7.5 percent to P17.10 per kilogram (/kg) from P18.49/kg from its level during the fourth quarter of 2020.
It increased by 4.4 percent compared with its previous year’s same period farmgate price of P16.38 per kilogram of 2020.
Meanwhile, the country’s rice stocks inventory reached 2.44 million MT as of April 1. This represents an annual increment of 3.2 percent from its level of 2.38 million MT in the same period of the preceding year.
Month-on-month, rice stocks inventory also increased by 17.5 percent from its previous month’s level of 2.08 million MT.
Year-on-year, rice stocks from households rose by 17.9 percent and commercial warehouses/wholesalers/retailers by 4.0 percent.
However, rice stocks in National Food Authority (NFA) depositories decreased by -41.9 percent, which indicates either lower procurement from local farmers or higher distribution of rice that were purchased earlier.
The PSA data came out days after the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) expressed extreme disappointment with Congress’ failure to tackle urgent resolutions questioning the need for Executive Order No. (EO) 135, which lowered tariff rates on rice imports from outside ASEAN.
FFF argued that with the positive forecast on the Philippines’ rice production, there is really no need to boost the importation of rice.
It was in the latter part of May when President Rodrigo Duterte issued EO 135, reducing the out-quota tariffs on rice imports from 50 percent to 35 percent and the in-quota or minimum access volume (MAV) tariffs from 40 percent to 35 percent for a period of one year.
In effect, the tariff rate for all imports, whether from ASEAN or outside, will be at a uniform 35 percent.
The purpose of the EO is to diversify the country’s sources of rice, augment local stocks, maintain affordable prices, and ease pressures on inflation.
The FFF, in a formal letter filed before the Senate and House on Representatives on May 17, questioned the basis for the EO and called for hearings on the issues involved.
“Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Dar has repeatedly issued public statements that we have ample stocks. He has not made any statement alluding to any imminent or projected shortage in rice supplies,” FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor said in an earlier statement.
The other day, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III directed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to keep a tighter watch on incoming rice shipments to ensure the proper collection of taxes following the issuance of EO 135.