Press Release
August 6, 2019

De Lima calls for Senate probe on rice tariff law's impact on farmers, agri industry

Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Senate to look into the alleged slow and ineffective implementation of the five-month-old Rice Tariffication Law that adversely affects the country's local agricultural sector and the livelihood of farming communities.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution No. 63, urging the Senate to assess the negative impact of the Rice Tariffication Law on farmers and the agricultural sector.

"The swift implementation of the trade liberalization aspect of the Rice Tariffication Law, even before any significant program was implemented to improve the productivity of our farmers, led to already serious losses in our local rice industry," she said.

According to her, the slow and ineffective implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act, or Republic Act No. 11203, has caused the prices of palay to plummet, thus affecting the livelihood of farmers and the agricultural industry.

"The implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law only led to sky high profits for the rice importers who sell the rice at market rate despite being able to buy at very low prices, while doing practically nothing for our local farmers," she added.

Local farmers from different agricultural provinces in the country have reportedly complained that the prices of palay had dropped to as low as PhP12 a kilo or the same as the average cost of producing rice in the first five months since the law took effect.

The Philippine Statistics Agency furthermore disclosed that the average farm-gate price as of June was ?17.85 a kilo, which is the lowest in almost three years.

With the drastic drop in palay prices, some 200,000 farmers have reportedly stopped working on food production, while some 4,000 rice mills have ceased their operations.

The lady Senator from Bicol pointed out that the new rice tariff law lacks the social safety nets to address the displacement of an estimated 2.7 million farmers, 6,000 registered rice millers, and several NFA workers and their accredited retailers.

"There is (a) need to ensure that the programs for our local rice farming sectors are immediately implemented, especially the purchase of palay at competitive rates, providing for reasonable profits for our rice farmers," she said.

"There is (also a) need to look into faster rollout of the programs increasing the productivity and efficiency of our rice farmers to ensure that we will be able to produce rice at a rate and quality that can compete with those currently being imported," she added.

Despite the availability of PhP5 billion under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, De Lima said the government's underspending and low utilization of the fund has failed to increase the productivity and efficiency of our farmers.

"If this trend continues, it can lead to the death of the rice industry," warned De Lima as she urged the government to ensure that the welfare of local farmers and the agriculture sector are protected while implementing the Rice Tariffication Law.

"We must also make sure that the liberalization of the rice market would lead to better and lower prices of rice and better food security for our countrymen," she said.

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