A rice farmer in Iloilo province prepares his field for planting. A farmers’ group in Panay and Guimaras islands is calling for the junking of House Bill 7735 or the Rice Tariffication Bill which imposes tariffs on rice imports instead of quotas. The entry of more rice imports would put local farmers at a disadvantage, it says. PN PHOTO

ILOILO City – A farmers’ group in Panay and Guimaras islands is calling for the junking of House Bill 7735 or the Rice Tariffication Bill.

For Pamanggas or the Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras, the bill will worsen the state of the local rice industry and dislocate local farmers.

Congress on Tuesday last week approved on second reading House Bill 7735 which imposes tariffs on rice imports instead of quotas.

“Putting tariffs on rice imports doesn’t solve the rice crisis,” said Lucia Capaducio, chairperson of Pamanggas.

With the entry of more rice imports, Capaducio said local farmers would drown in debt and go bankrupt.

“Given the high production cost and minimal support from the government, local farmers won’t be able to compete with cheap imported rice,” she said.

As prices and supply are controlled by rice cartels, Capaducio maintained there was no guarantee that rice prices would go down by deleting quotas and putting tariffs on rice imports.

“The National Food Authority (NFA), on the other hand, is acting like a broker. There is a deliberate reduction of NFA’s share in procurement of the country’s total rice stock. In 2016, it only procured 0.6 percent of the total rice production; in 2017, it only bought 0.15 percent of the total rice production. NFA has failed to uphold its mandate and the rice stock has been turned over to the private sector at a higher price,” Capaducio noted.

Instead of relying on imports, the government should strengthen the local rice industry and agriculture, she stressed, by, among others, increasing its local palay procurement and provide support services and subsidies to local rice farmers.

Capaducio said the government should also stop the massive conversions of agricultural lands to commercial lands.

“Most of all, it should implement genuine agrarian reform as a necessity to ensure the country’s food security,” said Capaducio./PN

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