Mindanao leaders ask Congress to review rice importation law
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Mindanao leaders are asking Congress to revisit the Rice Tariffication Law, or Republic Act 11203, in a bid to address the sharp drop in the income of rice farmers whose production now competes with supply from abroad.
The call came through a resolution of the governing board of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) that counts among its members local and regional leaders of the government and private sector.
MinDA is the government’s chief coordinating agency for fostering development in Mindanao. Among the members of its governing board are Bangsamoro chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, MinDA chair, noted that the farm gate price of palay or unmilled rice in some parts of Mindanao has dropped to P11 per kilo, from P22 per kilo two years ago.
The price of P11 per kilo is below the average production cost of P12 per kilo, Piñol said.
Implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law began in March last year, doing away with quantitative limits to imports of the staple crop while also setting higher tariffs that would go into the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to support the local rice industry.
The law aims to provide affordable rice prices for consumers as well as raise the income of rice farmers.
However, Piñol, who used to be the country’s Agriculture chief, said there is “irrefutable evidence that the unimpeded rice importation has caused injury to the local rice industry and rice farmers of Mindanao.”
“The resolution was presented during the MinDA governing board meeting as among the issues and problems which could affect Mindanao’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic,” he explained.
Mindanao has about 1.2 million hectares of rice farms, generating over 350,000 jobs.
If left unchecked, Piñol said the worsening situation of rice farmers could adversely affect the economic recovery efforts of Mindanao.
Piñol cited studies conducted by the Federation of Free Farmers showing that while rice consumers benefited from the lower rice prices, at an estimated value of P6 billion, rice farmers lost about P80 billion because of reduced income from very low farm gate prices.
“Additional losses which have yet to be quantified were also reported in ancillary activities to rice production, including land preparation equipment utilization, milling and processing and by-products like rice bran and rice hulls,” he added.
He revealed that Sen. Zubiri, who voted for the Rice Tariffication Law, has expressed openness to revisiting the measure.
“If it is really causing injury to the rice industry and hardships to our farmers, then it is only fair that we review the law,” Piñol quoted Zubiri as saying.
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