NEDA reduces rice tariff amid inflation concerns

NEDA photo

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board has approved a significant reduction in the tariff rate on rice imports, sparking a mix of concern and cautious optimism among various stakeholders.

The decision, which forms part of the new Comprehensive Tariff Program for 2024-2028, was made to balance the interests of consumers, local producers, and the overall economy, according to Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

“Access and affordability of essential commodities, like rice, are critical for fostering rapid, sustained, and inclusive economic growth,” Balisacan stated in a statement on June 10.

He emphasized that the decision was not taken lightly and followed extensive consultations under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

The Tariff Commission (TC) began consultations in March 2023, inviting 801 stakeholders, including 192 from the agriculture sector.

The Commission reviewed position papers and comments from various parties, including private sector entities, consumer groups, government agencies, and a member of the House of Representatives.

“The goal of reducing the tariff rate of rice is to ensure that Filipinos have access to nutritious and affordable food, particularly rice, while managing inflation and sustaining our economic growth momentum,” Balisacan explained.

He noted that rice has contributed significantly to headline inflation in recent months, accounting for over 50% of the rate.

Farmers, however, have expressed concerns about the impact of lower tariffs on domestic production and income.

NEDA has assured them of support through investments in infrastructure, adoption of modern technologies, and improved market and financial access.

“We understand the concerns of our farmers and are committed to supporting them through this transition,” Balisacan said.

He highlighted the Marcos Administration’s focus on agricultural development, noting a 69% increase in the Department of Agriculture’s budget from 2022 to 2024.

The NEDA Board aims to manage inflation and ensure the affordability of essential staples, acknowledging the disproportionate impact of high food prices on the poor.

“High food prices contribute to hunger, malnutrition, and stunting, hindering the attainment of our development goals,” Balisacan added.

As the government continues to prioritize food security and agricultural strength, it promises ongoing engagement with all stakeholders.

“We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including our farmers, as we work towards these goals,” Balisacan concluded.

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