DA to review Rice Tariffication law as Phl ranks as world’s biggest rice importer

Maris Federez   •   November 12, 2019   •   606

Filipino port workers unload sacks of rice, which are imported from Vietnam to be distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA), inside a ship docked at Surigao port, Mindanao, southern Philippines, 15 April 2008. EPA-EFE/ALANNAH TORRALBA (FILE)

MANILA, Philippines – A United States agency report reveals that the Philippines has become the world’s biggest importer of rice, just months after the rice tariffication bill was enacted.

The US Department of Agriculture – Foreign Agricultural Service report also projected that the Philippines will have imported a total of 3-million metric tons of rice before the year ends.

This is 58% higher compared to the 1.9-million metric tons of rice that the country imported in 2018.

The Philippine reportedly outranked China – the biggest rice importer– which is expected to import 2.5 metric tons of rice.

The Department of Agriculture record, however, said that this early, the Philippines has already imported 2.99 million metric tons from January to October.

DA spokesperson Noel Reyes added that 1.8 million metric tons of the total amount of rice that the country has imported were placed after the enactment of the rice tariffication bill in March.

“We cannot restrict. Kasi kung ire-restrict mo ‘yan, we are going against the law, unless the law says, we can only import so much,” Reyes said.

The DA admitted that there may have been an over-importation of rice in the country.

Because of this, DA Secretary William Dar and Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairperson Cynthia Villar are planning to review the said law.

“That’s the feeling of the department because of the complaints of farmers and farmers groups,” Reyes said.

“That’s the wish of the secretary and Senator Villar after a year, they have to review the RTL (Rice Tariffication Law) and probably put in some more provisions so as not to over-exceed our rice requirements,” he added.

Several farmer groups share the same sentiment.

The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said the government must raise the rice importation tariff and focus on increasing the presence of local rice in the market.

“Kapag dumating na ‘yung panahon na naubos na ‘yung sobra, pwede naman nilang tanggalin ‘yung additional tariff na ‘yun para magpasok ulit ng imported. Ganun sana ang laro nila,” said Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager.

“Parang gusto nating mamatay ‘yung magsasaka, na wala tayong nilagay na control sa import, pasok lang ng pasok ‘yung importation, pabagsak ng pabagsak ang palay, at parang napakahina ‘yung response ng gobyerno,” he added.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), on the other hand, believes that the Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped.

The group said the latest record of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the farm gate price of palay (grains) is now at P15 per kilo.

The KMP, however, said there are still several areas in the country where farmers sell their produce at P10 per kilo.

“Hindi na rin po namimili ang National Food Authority kasi po sa ilalim po ng Rice Tarrification and Liberalization Law, hindi na po sila mamimili ng palay sa magsasaka kaya po lalo pong binabarat ng mga malalaking traders at cartels,” said KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

In a statement, Bantay Bigas group spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said that they have been giving warning that the rice tariffication law will gravely affect the local farmers.

 “As we have decried repeatedly, RA 11203 will turn Filipinos into beggars of imported rice.  We all have witnessed this law causing bankruptcy to rice farmers, and this will lead to displacement and ultimately declined productivity,” Estavillo said.

To date, the price of a regular milled local rice is somewhere between P35 and P38 per kilo in several marketplaces in Quezon City.

The DA, on the other hand, is confident that the price of rice will continue to go down to P30 per kilo.

The agency also sees a downward trend in rice importation by next year as the local production improves. (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

Senate to probe DA’s procurement of alleged overpriced fertilizer

Marje Pelayo   •   June 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has released a P5-B budget for the procurement of fertilizer to be distributed to local farmers under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“Minabuti po natin na mayroong fertilizer this time around kasi may pandemya tayo [We believe it’s best to have fertilizers at this time of pandemic],” noted DA Secretary William Dar.

“Gusto nating pataasin ang food sufficiency level sa bansa [We want to improve the country’s food sufficiency level] from now 86% to 93% to 94%,” he added.

But an agricultural group ‘Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura’ (SINAG) claimed that DA’s bidding price of P1,000 per bag is higher by P150 as compared to about P800 per bag that farmers regularly buy in local markets. 

“Kung ang floor price mo ilalagay mo sa mataas, anong tendency ng mga dealer? Magbi-bid ng mataas kasi yun ang floor price mataas [If you set a high floor price, dealers will bid higher as well],” argued SINAG President Rosendo So.

But the Agriculture Department argued that the budget of P1,000 per bag of fertilizers is actually lower than the surveyed price of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (P1,043 to P1,062/bag between March to May 2020) and the Philippine Statistics Authority (P1,140/bag in December 2019).

DA acknowledged that the price of fertilizer indeed dropped but it was already the bidding period and it also included other expenses like transportation. 

“We are not bound na baguhin kasi the DA BAC is merely relying on what is included in the terms of reference given by the end-users,” explained DA Undersecretary Waldo Carpio.

But SINAG argued that the actual price that farmers have been buying is better than those in surveys.

“Itong mga nakukuha nating presyo is resibo na ng mga farmers. Ano ang mas titingnan ng tao? Iyong survey o iyong actual na presyo [What we have are actual receipts from farmers. What do you think the public will believe? The surveys or the actual price]?” argued So.

The matter has reached the office of Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Senator Cynthia Villar who vowed to launch a probe on this once the Senate session resumes in July. 

“Kasi ito kung ang bibilhin nila ay P5 billion peso-worth na ipamimigay sa farmers, that would be P5-million. So kung may overprice na P140 per bag, that’s P700M. Malaki din diba? [If they bought P5-billion-peso-worth of (fertilizers) to be distributed to farmers, that would be P5-million. If there’s an overpricing of P140 pesos per bag, that’s P700-M. That’s a huge amount],” noted Villar.

“Kaya titingnan natin kung tama iyong retail at ano ba ang wholesale (price) [We will check if the retail price is correct and what the wholesale price is] then we investigate],” concluded Villar. -MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DA to use satellite imaging on farms to improve crop insurance

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 9, 2020

The Department of Agriculture (DA) seeks to launch a program that would use satellite technology to improve crop insurance in the country.

Based on a Memorandum of Agreement signed on Monday (June 8), the program would provide satellite images for several crop farms in Nueva Ecija, Iloilo, and North Cotabato.

The project, with the initial funding support of P5 million, targets to provide satellite imaging for the 100,000 hectares planted with rice and 40,000 hectares planted with various crops within six months.

According to DA Secretary Willam Dar, the program aims to provide farmers with direct and targeted assistance to improve their productivity.

“The traditional source of information which relies heavily on fieldwork will be insufficient in the country. As we modernize our agriculture sector, we must continuously explore for relevant technology to increase sufficiency and productivity,” Dar said.

The program will also improve the DA’s disaster response, Dar added.

The MOA signing was witnessed by the Agriculture Secretary and Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) President Atty. Jovy Bernabe. –AAC

PH has enough rice supply for entire year – DA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 13, 2020

Filipino workers carry sacks of government-subsidized rice (NFA Rice) into a store selling various rice brands at a market in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 04 October 2018. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has reassured the public that the country’s rice supply remains sufficient for the entire year “with a comfortable level of inventory.”

“Going into the lean months and onto December 31, 2020, we have enough supply of food, and that includes our major staple – rice,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“We remain consistent that our total projected supply of rice by end of December 2020 would be 17.994 million metric tons (MMT), while our total projected demand would be 14.668 MMT, leaving a year-end inventory of 3.326 MMT,” he added.

With these projections, Dar said that the beginning inventory in January 2021 is seen to last for 94 days.

The DA estimated the projected 2020 year-end supply using three components, namely:

  • Beginning stock in January 2020 or the surplus in December 2019;
  • Total domestic palay production, from January to December 2020; and
  • Total rice imports, January to December 2020, including the 300,000 MT to be imported by the DTI’s Philippine International Trading Corp. under a government-to-government arrangement

The DA said that the respective figures are gathered by its field operations service (FOS) from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Bureau of Customs (BOC) on rice imports, other relevant government agencies, and DA regional field offices (RFOs) in tandem with local government units (LGUs), on palay production.

The PSA’s supply utilization accounts of selected agricultural commodities showed that, of the total rice demand, an average of only 88% serves as food or what is actually eaten, the remaining 12% is allotted for seeds, feeds and industrial uses.

“Hence, of the total projected demand of 14.488 MMT, the actual rice that would be consumed as food would only amount to 12.9 MMT,” the department said.

Citing PSA report, the DA said that a Filipino consumes a total of 118.81 kilograms annually, equivalent to 325.5 grams of milled rice daily.

With a current population of 108.66 million Filipinos, the country’s total annual consumption would amount to 12.9 MMT.

“We hope this will clarify issues on our rice supply, demand, and consumption situation. Again, we assure the nation that the DA is doing its best to secure the country with enough and affordable food for all. Our programs to make this happen are already in place to help our farmers and fisherfolk,” Dar said.

The DA chief made the clarification following concerns on food supply amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

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