While importing rice is now liberalized with the enactment of Republic Act No. 11203, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is urging rice traders and importers to be conscious of the supply situation in the market so that there will be no oversupply of the staple grain.

In his speech, which was read by Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cunanan during the Rice Traders Forum held Monday at the Ayuntamiento de Manila in Intramuros, Manila, Piñol said oversupply will result in “depressed prices of rice in the market which will hurt our local farmers whose lives our government is concerned with now”.

“Oversupply will result in depressed prices of rice in the market which will hurt our local farmers.”

The agriculture chief noted that a poor farming sector “could give this country serious problems as the farmers could be vulnerable to the enticement of radical groups who would like to destabilize (the) government”.

The agriculture head stressed that rice importers play a vital role in attaining rice sufficiency in the country.

While efforts and progress have been made in increasing rice production in the country, he said “we will have a shortfall of about 1.6 to 2.0 million metric tons (MT) every year to sufficiently feed our country”.

“This is where the rice importers and traders come in so that the gap could be filled up,” Piñol added.

For 2019, the DA is targeting 20 million MT rice production, which is equivalent to a 93 percent rice sufficiency despite the effects of the El Niño phenomenon that is now affecting rice-producing provinces.

DA Assistant Secretary Andrew Villacorta, during a recent press conference on rice importation under the Rice Liberalization Act, said the expected damage and losses on rice production due to El Niño would only be at 0.96 percent, or about 190,000 MT of palay (unmilled rice).

“We met with regional directors and surprisingly, there were three regions who reported they increased their rice production. Central Luzon is forecasting a 22 percent increase, Ilocos region is forecasting 14 percent, and Cagayan Valley at 3 percent,” Villacorta said.

As such, the agriculture official said “we’re expecting more than 400,000 MT increase in palay output, which will be enough to compensate the loss of 190,000 MT. This is why, we’re confident to maintain our target at 20 million MT this year.”

With RA 11203 or the rice liberalization law, getting permit to import rice is now made easy as traders just need to get a sanitary and phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and pay the tariff rate.

However, while things are made easy for traders and importers to do business, Piñol told the traders that “the government expects you to be aware of your moral obligation” and “to embrace the philosophy of business with social conscience”.

“The government expects you to be aware of your moral obligation.”

“This is not just about importation of rice so that you will earn profit. It is also about ensuring that the people who produce food for this country are also lifted out of poverty,” he added.

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