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DA to enforce strict SPS issuance on rice imports

TO arrest the influx of cheap imported rice, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it set to impose stringent sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and inspection measures of rice imports.

At the sidelines of 11th World Rice Conference in Makati City, Agriculture Secretary William Dar told reporters that he has signed on Tuesday, November 12, a memorandum circular for the stricter implementation of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPS IC) that will be immediately put in place.

“We will continue to be strict. We will continue to elevate our measures before we issue the SPS IC,” Dar said.

His statement came after the United States’ Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Services recently reported that the Philippines was projected to become the world’s biggest importer of rice for 2019 — importing an all-time high of 3 million metric tons (MT), surpassing the current biggest importer of rice, China, which is expected to import 2.5 million MT this year.

Latest data from the Bureau of Customs showed that the country’s rice imports had already reached 2.99 million MT from January to October this year, 150-percent higher from the 10 previous years.

The stricter measures on the issuance of SPS IC will cover heavy metal content, pesticide residue level, extraneous and filth contaminants, as well as microbiological parameters. The measures will put in place food safety control for milled rice to prevent or eliminate food safety hazard or to reduce it to an acceptable level.

While the recent memorandum circular only calls for the stricter implementation of issuance of SPS IC, which is considered to be a continuing mechanism, Dar clarified that this time “it’s how they (importers) are able to respond to the very requirements before we issue the SPS IC.”

“Kung main harvest, talagang sabi ko pag-igtingin para kakaunti yung darating kasi maapektuhan yung mga farmers (If it’s main harvest time, we will really strengthen the measure, so that the volume of imports will be reduced, because farmers will really be affected),” he added.

Dar also said the DA was hopeful that rice-exporting countries Thailand and Vietnam will cooperate with the Philippines’ move to lessen rice importation with the implementation of Rice Tariffication Law signed last February.

“Well, we have written them formally and hoping that the same positive response will always be there. There is an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) collaboration principle that everyone has to reciprocate,” Dar said.

As early as September this year, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura has urged the DA to immediately suspend the issuance of importation permits to protect local rice farmers from the surge on imported rice. Doing so will encourage rice millers to buy palay (unmilled rice) from local farmers and help prices of palay stabilize at the farmgate level, said Sinag Chairman Rosendo So.

“Pero kung hindi ihihinto yung importation, wala talaga, hindi sila bibili kasi yung imported around P30, divided by two P15, so bibili yang mga rice millers P15 to P16 kaya yung solusyon talaga huwag mag-issue ng SPS (If importation will not be stopped, rice millers will not buy imported rice that costs P30. They will only buy if it costs P15 to P16. So, the solution is not to issue an SPS),” So said.

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