Rice importation ‘premature’


Business Mirror

07 March 2010





The decision to import more rice as announced by the Department of Agriculture (DA) is premature and needs to be reviewed, stakeholders in the rice industry said.

Jessica Reyes-Cantos, lead convenor of Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), said the government should put on hold its plan to import 3 million metric tons  (MMT) of rice this year, until reliable and verifiable data on the projected rice-production shortage are established.

“We seriously doubt the government’s projections of the production shortfall. We are as surprised at how quickly the Department of Agriculture announced its intent to import a growing volume of rice,” she said.

The proposed importation of 3 MMT, Cantos said, is 30 percent higher than the 2.3 MMT of rice imported last year.

“The bulk of the country’s palay production is in the second half of the year when the impact of El Niño is expected to have tapered off,” said Cantos.

Instead of spending government funds on excessive importation of the staple food, the DA should help the rice industry survive El Niño, she added.

Based on the group’s computation, at a 50-percent tariff rate, the average landed cost of rice will be P37,000 per metric ton (MT) at current global prices. The importation of 3 MMT of rice will cost taxpayers as much as P111 billion or P37 a kilo.

Cantos said the figures will change if the government imports it at zero tariff and forgoes around P55 billion in revenues.

The government has said it will allow the private sector to import 200,000 MT of rice that will arrive on September 15.

“Being in the typhoon corridor of the Pacific, the Philippines is naturally vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather. However, the government continues to resort to the quick-fix solution of importation when struck by natural calamity,” Herculano Co, president of the Philippine Confederation of Grains Association (Philcongrains), said for his part.

R1, Philcongrains, the National Rice Farmers Council, Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan, Agriwatch, National Market Vendors Service Cooperative, Rice Seednet, National Confederation of Irrigators Association, Devolved Agriculturists of the Philippines and Agriculture Machineries Manufacturers and Distributors Association  have agreed to work together to develop the local rice industry and help the government achieve its target of rice self-sufficiency.

Farmers have been complaining about the government’s failure to devise strategic and effective measures to address the rice industry’s woes.

Farmer-leader Jaime Tadeo said flooding the market with cheap rice every time there is a perception that rice supply reaches a critical level is a formula the government must jettison.

“As we unite and resolve to save the local rice industry and ensure that the country will achieve rice self-sufficiency, we demand that the government rise beyond its present formula of flooding the market with rice when the supply reaches critical level,” Tadeo, president of the National Rice Farmers Council, said.

The farmers said the imports will compete with the local rice produce because the harvest is expected in October. “This will naturally drive down the prices of local palay and the farmers will lose from this unfair competition,” said Tadeo.

Tadeo said the government needs only P9.8 billion to restore the irrigation systems of 164,000 hectares of rice land and produce an additional 1.9 MMT of rice for the people.

“We need the government’s support to ensure that farmers receive infrastructure and production support in the event of a long dry spell this summer season. The problem will continue when the rainy season comes after that. Again, the solution is not to import excessive rice but to devise strategic intervention in water pumps, water-impounding projects, postharvest facilities and seeds intervention,” Tadeo said.


They suspect the May elections may be behind the government’s eagerness to import excessive volumes of rice. “The current administration may be motivated by political considerations because rice is the Filipinos’ staple [and] has been used as a tool for political campaigns or fund-raising tool,” the group said. J. Mayuga












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