Farmer-millers to monitor rice tariffication enforcement

UNLIMITED rice importation under the Rice Tariffication Act is expected to result in domestic retail price of rice by as much as PHP7 per kilogram. (File photo from National Food Authority-Negros Occidental)

BACOLOD CITY — The Negros Occidental Farmer Rice Millers Multipurpose Cooperative (Nofarimco) has vowed to monitor the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act to ensure proper use of the PHP10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

“We really have to monitor the actual implementation of the program, or those stated in the law, to make sure the enhancement fund will really benefit us farmers,” said Nofarimco chair Jesus Jimenez on Thursday.

Jimenez noted that although some of the provisions are perceived to be good for the farmers, they fear possible “corruption” wherein the tariffication scheme might benefit only a few.

If implemented properly, he said the law will result in provision of funds for mechanization, trainings and other incentives to the farmers.

“But it could also be a threat if corruption prevails,” he added.

Nofarimco is composed of 37 regular small farmer-millers who do not have their own milling facilities.

On April 1, 2019, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) signed the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the rice tariffication law.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Act on Feb 15, 2019.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said the IRR is expected to formulate a rice industry roadmap for the development of the sector.

Rice tariffication will result in a switch from the previous quota system in importing rice to a tariff system, where rice can be imported more freely.

The law allows unlimited rice importation, but investors must first secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from Southeast Asia.

This is expected to result in a decline by as much as PHP7 per kilogram in the domestic retail price of rice.

Various government agencies cited the gains of the law, such as giving farmers additional resources, reducing the price of rice, avoiding rice smuggling, and significantly reducing inflation.

Under the new law, the National Food Authority will no longer have regulatory functions, including the licensing and provision of import permits to traders, but will still have the mandate to ensure the sufficient supply of buffer stocks of rice in the country. (PNA)