Rice Tariffication Law: A "Death Warrant" to the Local Rice Industry

Rice Tariffication Law: A "Death Warrant" to the Local Rice Industry

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Carmela Catapang started this petition to Philippine Government and

Senator Cynthia Villar, Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, and the Committee on Agrarian Reform has successfully championed the Rice Tariffication Law. Republic Act No. 11203 or commonly known as ‘An Act Liberalizing the Importation, Exportation and Trading of Rice, Lifting for the Purpose the Quantitative Import Restriction on Rice, and For Other Purposes’ was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, 2019 to help stem rising inflation since the lack of rice supply was actually one of the main drivers of the inflation last year. With the law enacted a month after signing, foreign competitors and traders can now freely import rice in the country without a required quota for rice imports, thereby competing with local rice production.

Local rice farmers are not doing well amid tougher competition. For most Filipino farmers; the newly reduced price provides difficulty in earning more yet alone breakeven. Last April, a farmer from Nueva Ecija said that his crops are only bought for Php 12 whereas his production cost is only ranging from Php 12 to Php 13 which is clearly makes him face a deficit. Last year, his crops were being sold by Php 21.50, doubled than the amount right now. Because of this law, their condition worsened. They cannot pay their bills especially their debts which results to having a higher debt. They cannot support their basic needs. Other farmers decided to just sell their lands to avoid repeated deficit.

One of the main issues concerning this law is that Filipino rice farmers are having, and may continue to have, a hard time competing with imports that come with a cheaper price tag. Farmer groups clamor that this new law will make them compete with cheap rice imports, making them more penniless. Not only that the consumers will also be affected because this law also concerns inflation rates. This implies that the rice sold in markets should be priced lower to become more affordable and accessible to all Filipinos. Liberalizing rice imports will help, but will not solve the Philippines' inflation problem and it is said that “If the farmer is poor, then so is the whole country.”

Rice Tariffication law may affect local farmers because of increase on imports of rice. Instead of relying from imported rice, we assert that the genuine approach to food security and self-sufficiency and government support to agricultural production. As prerequisite, farmers who are the primary forces of production in the countryside should attain security of tenure on the land, while technological and mechanization developments are being established by the government. President Duterte ordered National Food Authority to buy palay from local farmers to help them cope from the effect of Rice Tariffication law. We need to support programs that help the farmers and serve as safeguard to cushion the sudden effects of inflation. We are considered as an agricultural country but the farmers who sacrifice their health and family are the one who experience hunger, poverty and impoverishment.

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