Farmers, think tank groups seek 180% tariff on imported rice

Published August 11, 2022, 5:45 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Farmer and think tank groups have strongly urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to finally repeal the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) and impose 180 percent tax on imported rice to discourage traders from importing rice arriving during the harvest season.

In a joint statement, farmers groups Alliance for Resilience, Sustainability, and Empowerment (ARISE) and National Movement for Food Sovereignty, with inputs from academicians and think tank groups, urged Marcos to amend the RTL or Republic Act 11203 to re-impose state regulation and control over domestic rice trade.

In particular, the groups sought to amend Section 8 of RTL and increase NFA rice buffer stocking to 60 days consumption.

Based on their computations, palay procurement volume above the 60 day-buffer stock is more practical. The budget required is about P69 billion pesos and it can buy about 3.15 million tons of palay. This is about 28 percent of the harvest during the wet season. At this buying level, they said the National Food Authority (NFA) can effectively stabilize the farm gate price at P22/kg.

By amending the RTL, the government will also reinstitute NFA’s sole authority to import rice and regulate its entry into the domestic market, which was removed by RTL.

The 180 percent tax will only be imposed on rice imports arriving during the harvest season. The RTL has liberalized rice importation and imposes 35 percent tariff.

To help farmers, a minimum support price (MSP) should be set at P 22/kg to allow farmers to realize decent income. Below this, the farmers will receive a price subsidy.

In reinstituting NFA’s authority to issue permits and licenses and undertake surveillance and monitoring of the domestic rice market, the group also called for reform and expansion of the agency’s regulatory and monitoring function.

In addition, the groups would like the government to prioritize aid and subsidies to rice farmers affected by RTL such as in the immediate distribution of free farm inputs, hybrid rice seeds, fertilizers to more than 3.5 million rice farmers to ensure increase in farm yield in the next cropping season and efficient irrigation system.

During lean season, the groups said that government should allow farmers’ cooperatives or associations to import fertilizer directly from supplier in the international market with government guarantee to ensure cheaper fertilizer prices.

Support farmers’ associations and cooperatives to directly market their rice to consumers and institutional markets.

While Congress is in the process of reviewing or amending RTL, the groups said government should immediately halt rice importation especially as the domestic market is already flooded with imported rice, using provisions of Republic Act No. 8800 and other pertinent rules of WTO on Minimum Access Volume (MAV) to prevent entry of unwanted volumes of rice.

In addition, the groups also urged government to compensate not lower than P20,000 rice farmers, who are hit badly by the increasing volume of rice imports.

Being the country’s main staple, the government was also urged to take rice out of free trade agreements and to junk policies that liberalize rice importation to ensure food security for Filipinos.

Academicians and think tank groups supporting the farmers include Prof. Teodoro Mendoza, retired professor, UP Los Banos, College of Agriculture; Arze Glipo, executive director, Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF); and Rene Ofreneo, PhD, retired dean, UP Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.