FARMERS said the lowering of tariffs on imported rice will exert downward pressure on the farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, by an estimated P6 per kilogram.
In a statement on Wednesday, Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor estimated that the resulting reduction in farmer incomes could hit P120 billion per year.
He said the lost income will overwhelm any aid provided through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a component of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law. RCEF receives P10 billion a year from rice import tariffs.
On Tuesday, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it is looking into temporarily reducing rice tariffs to help bring down the retail price of rice.
Headline inflation rose to 5.3% in August due to the spike in rice and fuel prices. In particular, rice inflation accelerated to 8.7% in August from 4.2% in July.
On Friday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., imposed a price ceiling for rice — which took effect on Tuesday — via Executive Order No. 39.
Mr. Montemayor said retail prices continued to increase even after the government cut tariffs on rice from outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to 35% in 2021 from 50% previously.
“Gains from tariff reduction are simply being captured by importers and traders, with minimal benefit to consumers, and at the expense of farmers,” he said.
“Besides, importers are bringing in mostly premium-grade rice which provide better profit margins, and not the regular milled rice that the poor usually buy,” he added.
He urged Mr. Marcos, who is also the Secretary of Agriculture, to hold proponents of the low-tariff policy accountable for the “damage they have inflicted on small farmers and the agriculture sector resulting from their past flawed prescriptions.”
Department of Agriculture price monitors reported that as of Tuesday, domestic well-milled rice was selling in Metro Manila markets for between P45 and P53 per kilo, while imported well-milled rice fetched P45.
Domestic regular-milled rice sells for between P41 and P52. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera