By Stephanie Sevillano

MORE AID TO FARMERS. Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. assures additional assistance to farmers amid the tariff cut on imported rice in an interview on Monday (June 24, 2024). Under EO 62, the tariff will be subject to review every four months to determine if there’s a need for adjustments considering factors that might affect local farmers. (Screengrab)

MANILA – Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. on Monday assured that the approved tariff cut on imported rice is not anti-farmer as more aid for the sector is underway.

Laurel made the remark after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. issued Executive Order No. 62 which reduced the tariff on imported rice from 35 percent to 15 percent.

Hindi ito anti-farmer kasi committed naman ang ating gobyerno na kung ano man iyong mawawala dun sa RCEF (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) ay pupunuan para makatulong para sa kagamitan at pangangailangan ng mga magsasaka (This is not anti-farmer because our government is committed to supply whatever the shortfall of RCEF may be for the equipment or other needs of our farmers),” he said in an interview.

Mayroon tayong mga plano na maidagdag ibigay during this time na binaba iyong taripa kagaya ng (We have a plan to add our aid during this time that we lower the tariff, like) more support for mechanization. Balak din ng DA magbigay ng dagdag na fertilizer kung sakali mang lumiit ang kita nila (The DA also plan to give additional fertilizer in case their profits decline),” he said.

Under Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, around PHP10 billion worth of appropriated tariffs from private rice importers are set aside for mechanization and farm input support, with the balance given as financial aid to small rice farmers.

In 2023, the tariff collections from imported rice reached PHP29 billion; while the country collected around PHP22 billion in 2022.

Laurel also assured that the National Food Authority (NFA) will continue to buy local palay from farmers at a “reasonable” price.

Currently, the NFA buys fresh palay at a price ranging from PHP17 per kilogram to PHP23/kg.; and PHP23/kg. to PHP30/kg. for dry and clean palay.

Meanwhile, Laurel stressed the timeliness of tariff reduction considering the spiking global prices which affects the consumers in general.

“We have to really do this. Para iyong consumer naman matulungan at bumaba in general iyong presyo ng bigas for the moment kung posible nga (So that we can help our consumers and lower the prices of rice for the moment if truly possible),” he said referring to the estimated PHP6/kg. to PHP7/kg. decrease in rice retail prices due to the tariff cut.

Under EO 62, the tariff will be subject to review every four months to determine if there’s a need for adjustments considering factors that might affect local farmers.

Agri exports

Laurel also expressed optimism in terms of exporting the country’s various agri products.

“We put an export office for the first time sa (at) DA. So, I really see potential in our products for export all over the world,” he said.

He, however, cited the need to enhance support in the processing and promotion of local products.

These include support in the country’s participation in international food exhibitions, and strengthening of post-harvest processing and packaging in a variety of agricultural products in the country. (PNA)