DA eyes non-tariff measures to protect rice farmers

Ruth Abbey Gita

THE Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, September 4, revealed plans to impose non-tariff measures, including new sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, to help local farmers cope with the entry of imported rice into the country.

The proposal was made by Agriculture Secretary William Dar after farmers suffered heavily from the drop in farmgate prices of palay (unmilled rice) amid the influx of imports of the staple following the effectivity of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law in February 2019.

Dar said the non-tariff measures would limit the amount of rice imports to favor Filipino farmers.

"Legally, we have to go through non-tariff measures that will manage the importation of rice," the Agriculture chief said.

Several farmer groups have claimed that prices of palay plummeted to P6 to P10 per kilo following the implementation of rice tarrification.

RA 11203 was signed by Duterte in an effort to ease import restrictions on rice and improve the supply in the country to curb inflation.

The price of rice, which increased due to low supply, was among the major contributors to the elevated inflation rate in 2018.

Prices have, however, declined as local farmers have been unable to compete with the oversupply of imported rice.

Dar said ports would be inspected to ensure that rice shipments have sanitary and phytosanitary clearances.

"We will inspect the port of origin itong mga (of) rice to be imported at titingnan natin (and we'll see) whether this imported stocks are complying [with] the sanitary and phytosanitary measures," he said.

"So, ito kapag nakakita kami ng foreign object doon sa bigas na i-angkat ay i-hold namin. That’s one, that’s legal. Kung makakita kami isang bukbok doon sa bigas, i-hold namin until the bukbok is out, kahit isa lang. That’s how strict we will be in terms of implementing the sanitary and phytosanitary measures," he added.

(So if we see a foreign object, we will hold the importation of rice. That's one. That's legal. If we see even just one weevil, we will hold the importation, until the weevil is out. That’s how strict we will be in terms of implementing the sanitary and phytosanitary measures.) (SunStar Philippines)