Gov’t won’t allow rice imports during harvest season – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang assured farmers and rice producers on Thursday that government would not import rice during the harvest season so as not to affect the local prices after the Duterte administration cut tariffs on imported rice.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. argued that the reduction in the tariff rates on imported rice to 35 percent, from 40 percent for in-quota imports and 50 percent for out-quota imports, was necessary for the country’s rice security.
He conceded that the country’s rice production was high, but there was still a 10-percent shortfall and the “slight” tariff cut would fill the gap through the importation of cheap rice.
“We are trying to avoid a situation where our rice security would be affected, so we lowered [the tariff] slightly,” he said in a press briefing, echoing the view of economic managers that an increase in rice prices would be inflationary.
According to Roque, the government was trying to avoid a situation similar to the start of the pandemic last year when it had difficulty importing rice to make up for the shortfall in the country’s supply because other countries were prioritizing their rice security.
Request for understanding
The Philippines was only able to import rice from Vietnam when President Rodrigo Duterte called its prime minister, and the rice was sold to the country at higher prices, he noted.
At the same time, he asked for understanding from rice producers who are expected to be hit hard by the tariff cut and said there would be no importation during harvest season.
“We will not import rice during the harvest season. We will wait for the harvest to be finished so that it will not affect the price of rice sold by farmers in the market,” he said.
Roque tried to rally support for the controversial tariff cut after several senators filed a resolution urging the President to withdraw the cuts because it would hurt rice farmers, increase the country’s import dependency, and cause revenue losses to the government.
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