Stopping rice importation ‘dangerous,’ says public advocacy groupApril 17, 2017
April 12, 2017
MANILA – A public advocacy organization is calling on the Duterte administration to rethink its rice importation policy, describing it as “dangerous.”
In a statement, the Foundation for Economic Freedom said stopping all rice importation may lead to shortages and increased rice prices.
“We believe that neither policy allowing the National Food Authority to solely import rice, nor stopping all rice imports, is good for the Filipino consumer or the Filipino rice farmer.”
“Stopping all rice importation as Agriculture Secretary (Manny) Piñol wants is a dangerous policy that could lead to significant shortages and increased rice prices. The country has never been and is not self-sufficient in rice production. Stopping rice imports even during rice harvest season will put upward pressure on rice prices and will lead to significant hikes in rice prices and worsening of hunger and poverty,” the group added.
It also said allowing only the National Food Authority (NFA) to import rice is a “wrong policy” since the government is “a poor judge of the timing of rice imports.”
“Typhoons can hit the country at any time and destroy rice crops. Neither is the government equipped to respond quickly to a rice shortage given the bureaucratic procedures in government. A delay in importing rice will lead to significant spikes in rice prices and make rice more unaffordable to the poor,” the group said.
The group, likewise, called on the Duterte administration to remove the NFA monopoly on rice importation and liberalize rice trade.
“We support the tariffication of rice imports and using the tariff revenues to help our rice farmers either to shift production to higher-value crops or to increase productivity,” the group said.
“We believe that rice import liberalization will lead to lower rice prices, lower consumer inflation, and higher disposable income for the working class. It will make our manufacturing more competitive since rice, which is the single biggest source of calories for our workers, will become more affordable.”
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday has ordered a temporary halt in rice importation from Vietnam as local farmers posted a high yield of the staple grain this harvest season.
He also ordered the NFA to purchase rice from local farmers to boost stockpiles, saying that importing at the moment was not a good move.
Duterte issued the directive just hours after the NFA said it needed to buy 490,800 tons of rice to boost its stockpiles that have fallen below the required level ahead of the July-September lean harvest season.