The Philippines has surpassed China as the biggest rice importer in the world, according to a report on State of the Nation with Jessica Soho by Dano Tingcungco on Monday.
Data from the US Department of Agriculture showed that the Philippines imported 3 million metric tons of rice in 2019 due to the Rice Tarification Law, which is higher than the 2.5 million metric tons imported by China.
However, the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) questioned the US findings.
The DA said the to data from the Bureau of Customs, only 1.87 million metric tons of rice were imported as of October 23.
The tariffs collected from these imports amounted to P11.3 billion.
DA Spokesperson Noel Reyes said the increase in importation is merely a short-term effect of the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.
“We expect that the prices will go down, rice as well as palay. Pero dun sa rice, ‘di namin ineexpect 'yung pagbaba, ‘di ganun kabilis. Pero sa palay, talagang naramdaman kaagad kasi natapat pagpasok ng imports, tapat naman ng harvest. And tuwing harvest, talagang bagsak ang presyo,” he said.
The DA maintained that the Rice Tarrification Law is for the good of Filipino farmers.
Under the law, P10 billion generated from tariffs will be divided among mechanization, technical assistance, loans for farmers, and distribution of rice seeds.
“The heart and soul of the law is to make our rice industry competitive. How? Current production cost ng palay is P12 versus the most efficient ngayon sa buong ASEAN na Vietnam na P6 per kilo. And Thailand, P8 per kilo. Tayo, P12 per kilo. Why so? Because they are mechanized, they are heavily subsidized and they have a lot of flatlands all over,” Reyes said.
Some rice retailers have complained about losing customers due to the constant fluctuation of rice prices.
“Kaya pakonti-konti kami ng kuha kasi baka bukas bumaba ‘yan ng P50. Lalo na sa import, tumataas ng bente bigla, hindi namin masayawan. Doon kami nalulugi,” said rice retailer Rhoda Macaganda. — Julia Mari Ornedo/BAP, GMA News