THE Department of Agriculture is seeking a two-year grace period before lifting quantitative import restriction on rice in order to give local rice farmers time to recover and improve rice production.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, during a hearing by the Senate Committee on Agriculture on Monday, told senators that the rice farmers are still not ready with removal of the import restriction because of the failure of the Aquino administration to provide needed assistance to the sector and series of calamities that hit the country.
The quantitative restriction (QR) on rice means a 35 percent duty is imposed on imported rice under a minimum access volume of 805,200 metric tons, while a higher tariff of 50 percent is imposed on imported rice outside of the MAV limit.
The head of the National Economic and Development Authority and other economic managers have been calling for the lifting of the QR, saying the move will bring rice prices down and raise farmers’ incomes as they will be enticed to shift to more profitable crops.
Pinol said local rice farmers could not yet compete with neighboring rice- producing countries like Vietnam and Thailand.
“The best option is to give them [farmers]a grace period of two years. You have to understand our country has been hit by calamities. We went through extraordinary conditions,” the Agriculture secretary said in an interview after the Senate hearing.
Pinol noted that aside from calamities, the government in the past did nothing to help improve the agriculture sector, particularly in providing the needed irrigation systems, seeds and marketing assistance.
“These are the things we are trying to correct and we can address these by giving farmers a two-year grace period,” he said.
The DA chief added athat the primary target is to increase rice production of farmers during the grace period by filling the irrigation gap of 1.3 million hectares.
Of the targeted three million hectares, National Irrigation Administration data showed, only 1.7 million hectares of land have irrigation systems.