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“The price decrease in rice right now is not because of the Tariffication Law. It is a product of mere speculations of the traders and millers borne out of their fear that we will be flooded with imported rice from major rice exporting countries,” said Piñol.

He added that the DA under the Law’s proposed IRR is mandated to make sure that all importers of rice shall be registered with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and be part with the DA trade system for purposes of application and issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC).

“The impression that anybody can just sell imported rice here is not in line with this Law. DA still have the power to monitor and oversee the importation of rice in the country and even President Duterte has the power to issue up to 180 percent tariff to non-ASEAN exporter countries if we will be flooded with rice, making their produce way expensive than the local market, meaning it’s not constant except for ASEAN countries with 35 percent tariff,” said Piñol.

Citing the world market situation, he said such hearsays are impossible to happen pointing the projected decrease in Thailand’s rice exports from 10.8 million metric tons (MT) to 9.4 million MT. Vietnam exported 7.3 million MT but will not be able to export the same amount due to some agricultural issues.

“There is nothing to fear because if there would be an adverse effect of this law, it would only be temporary. The world market exports and imports on rice are almost equivalent. Our farmers should not be discouraged to plant rice because our country is growing by 1.7 percent every year, increasing the need to plant and harvest more,” he said.

Piñol said there is still a vast potential for the rice industry citing the growing rice imports of China and Africa.

“We cannot rely solely on the world market for our needs—we need to continue helping our rice farmers and the domestic rice industry,” he added.

Under RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, P10 billion will be allocated as the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

“P5 billion will be allocated for farm mechanization to reduce production losses from 14 to 12 percent of harvest. P3 billion will be allocated for seeds to reduce farm production cost by 30 percent and help increase the average yield to 6 MT per hectare in high-yielding provinces and 5 MT per hectare in medium-yielding provinces. P1 billion for credit and P1 billion will also be allocated for technical skills training,” he said, adding that DA will also promote solar powered irrigation system and will soon make it accessible to rice farmers.

Piñol is confident that with the advancement of researches on rice such as Hybrid Rice and Next Generation Rice varieties, Filipino rice farmers can compete in the rice market amidst the liberalization of rice imports, exports and trade.