Phlippines. Group opposes tariffs on rice imports


BANTAY Bigas, an alliance for safe, sufficient and affordable rice expressed its opposition to the government’s plan to impose tariff on rice imports, saying that it would endanger the local rice production and food security.

“The proposed tariffication is very alarming as it is leading to the full liberalization of the rice industry. The flooding of cheap imported rice will be catastrophic to the rice farmers especially that government support to agriculture and farmers is limited by the agreement with WTO-AoA (World Trade Organization – Agreement on Agriculture) which pushes for total state non-intervention,” Zen Soriano, Bantay Bigas spokesperson, said.

The Philippines intends to impose a bound tariff rate of 35 percent for rice coming from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) without volume cap and a 40 percent tariff MFN (most favored nation) rate for in-quota rice imports from countries outside Asean as well as a 400 percent MFN rate tariff outside the MAV (minimum access volume) of 350, 000 metric tons (MT) from non-Asean countries.

“Essentially, there will be an almost unlimited entry of imported rice in the country which will hinder the development of the local rice industry and the people’s aspiration for safe, sufficient, and affordable food,” Soriano said.

“Duterte’s economic managers and supporters of neoliberal policies argue that increasing the competition between traders will lower the rice prices. But this has not been the case since the country entered the WTO,” she added.

Soriano explained that the retail prices of rice have tripled since 1994. The retail price of regular-milled rice has increased from P12.21 per kilo in 1994 to P38 per kilo in October this year while the retail price of well-milled rice increased from P13.29 per kilo to P42.24 per kilo during the same time frame.

“Instead of strengthening the local production and agricultural development, the government resorted to dependence on importation as a method to attain ‘food security’,” Soriano said.

She added that improving irrigation service and boosting other support services to agriculture will hike the country’s rice production.

“Genuine development of the domestic rice industry is necessary. To achieve this, the government must veer away from liberalization of agriculture. We are supporting the enactment of the Rice Industry Development Act to be filed by Anakpawis Party-list in Congress,” Soriano said.


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