Rice imports to drop as inventory stabilizes
MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Tuesday said rice imports could go down next year as the country’s inventory stabilizes, and that farmers could become more productive as the programs supported by the rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF) gather steam.
Dar made the statement as the Commission on Appointments endorsed and eventually confirmed his appointment to the Department of Agriculture.
Rice imports in the country reached 3 million metric tons this year, when the Philippines began implementing the rice tariffication law that removed quantitative restrictions on rice.
The influx of imports sent rice farmers reeling as the farmgate prices of palay dropped.
But Dar said rice importation might not reach 3 million tons next year.
“If 3 million tons are here and your inventory is good for 100 days, you will need fewer imports,” he told reporters.
During his confirmation hearing, he also said the programs funded by the P10 billion RCEF have started being rolled out and he expects this to lead to better rice production.
The programs under the RCEF consist of mechanization, distribution of high-yield seeds, credit support, and agricultural extension.
Asked about the lamentation of many farmers who have been abandoning their lands because of the flood of rice imports, he said the lifting of quantitative restrictions was a major structural reform undertaken by the country.
The rice tariffication law provided for the RCEF which is intended to help farmers in rice producing provinces to become not just more productive but also competitive, he said.
But for areas not conducive to producing rice, the alternative is to turn them to other endeavors, such as crop diversification, he said.
“We will do our best to really implement the law and assist now those farmers that are badly affected,” he added.
Pressed for concrete action by Rep. Josephine Sato of Occidental Mindoro, a rice producing province, Dar said the P3.6 billon of the RCEF had been obligated and P5 billion for mechanization is now under process.
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