In line with the current controversy regarding the Rice Tariffication Law, signed and implemented on 14 February 2019 (Republic Act No 11203), the clamor for a fairer palay price has been circulating news portals nationwide and worldwide.
What is the Rice Tariffication Law?
In laymen’s terms, the Rice Tariffication Law simply equates to a hefty decrease of rice importation rules. Hence, private and commercial establishments, alike, are now given the go-signal in order to bring in palay–unmilled rice–from other rice-producing countries sans heavy government intervention.
This act is an amendment of the previous Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 or the Republic Act 8178 which covered a more severe QR (quantitative restriction). By doing so, this newer version aims to provide more affordable choices for Filipino consumers.
Given that rice is the main staple food of the nation, the capacity to import more rice, without the customary restrictions from the government, endows more consumer power unto the masses who antecedently had to make do with the past several years’ costly yet available supply.
Problem For Local Farmers
However, the same law becomes a horrific bane to many of the local farmers. In as much as about 500,000 Filipinos farmers are into the rice-planting industry, a lot of them had to sell their palay for only Seven Pesos a kilo.
This, then, points out the fact that a huge chunk of these farmers are forced to lose almost half of their capital especially since their existing palay came from the the old stock of seedlings previously set aside way before the said RA.
Rice Value In The Market
Meanwhile, prices of different rice varieties in the market have no obvious change. Most remain as high as the previous year. The NFA (National Food Authority) alternative plateaus at the same 27 Philippine Pesos a kilo and the cheapest of the commercial sorts still remain above 40 Philippine Pesos a kilo.
Although, in the local wet market here in La Union, one can find one that’s valued at 39 Philippine Pesos the last time I checked. Still expensive for most, to say the least.
Effect On Local Produce
The application of Republic Act 11203 has exponential effects on the locally produced rice. More importantly, the advent of the monsoon season worsens its results as more and more farmers are forced to harvest their crops far earlier than usual in order to reduce losses which, in turn, is a typical consequence of non-stop rains and inevitable flooding.
News reports teem with tearful locals narrating their bereft circumstances due to this unfortunate ruling. Thus, the government decides to lend an amount of 15,000 Philippine Pesos to qualified farmers in order to help cover their financial loss–a paltry sum, compared to the cumulative expenses already lost.
Plea For Control
Several groups plea for a revert in the government’s control over free importation of rice. In as much as the new Rice Tariffication Law aims to lower the steep price of commercial rice, there is also the necessity to secure the production of local rice. For, if not, an increase on the poverty rate of the country will be an imminent outcome.
As of writing, an outcry for much-needed subsidy for local farmers, all over the Philippines, has begun.