Mindanao Times

DA eyes measures against pest-packed imported rice


MANILA -- The Department of Agricultur­e (DA) will impose sanitary and phytosanit­ary (SPS) measures against imported rice as imports have ballooned to 2.2 million metric tons (MT) to have found to be “bukbokpack­ed“ (pests).

Imported rice has been found in the past to require heavy pesticide-spraying due to pests.

As such, DA Secretary William Dar said the government will impose SPS measures.

This is a sanction stipulated in the World Trade Organizati­on (WTO) agreement to curb poor quality rice imports.

“We have asked BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry) to implement protocol on import regulation­s regarding pesticide residue, presence of storage pests before the issuance of SPS (certificat­e) for imported rice,” Dar said on Saturday at a forum with the Philippine Chamber of Agricultur­e and Food Inc. (PCAFI) at the Quezon City Sports Club.

Dar said the DA will correct several policies and impose new ones to ensure the benefits of both Filipino farmers and consumers.

“Those that say DA should rather be called Department of Importatio­n, to some extent that’s true. And we will correct that eventually,” he noted.

One of the policies being studied is the recommenda­tion of PCAFI for the imposition of special safeguard measures, similarly sanctioned by the WTO, to ensure entry of imported rice does not endanger the local industry.

“We’re also now studying the possibilit­y of special

and general safeguards measure. If there’s excessive rice import, we will limit this,” Dar said. “We will (also) stop rice from coming from its origin (if) it’s affected by bukbok,” he added. PCAFI president Danilo Fausto, meanwhile, said such special safeguard measure is a government right as part of protecting its own people. Section 7 of Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Tarifficat­ion Act, states the government may “increase, reduce, revise” import duty rates (given certain conditions) consistent with “national interest” and the “objective of protection Filipino farmers and consumers.” Other possible measures of the DA in protecting farmers and consumers from the adverse effects of RA 11203 include: -- The imposition of a suggested retail price (SRP) “when figures don’t reflect true value of price” to ensure traders do not take advantage of the situation by “managing” or stopping inflow of supply into the domestic market, thereby causing prices to shoot up; -- DA to study the reason why rice price has not gone down considerin­g huge imports since March upon ratificati­on of RA 11203; -- Government to legislate increase in rice buffer stock from 30 days to 90 days. This will provide higher government budget for buying of palay of Filipino farmers’ produce, ensuring better income for farmers. This may also raise National Food Authority’s (NFA) ability to buy rice from Filipino farmers up to 5 percent of total rice production, versus the current 1 percent or less; -- Enjoining local government units (LGUs) to engage in the business of buying palay, milling, storing, and distributi­ng with the objective of immediatel­y releasing rice stocks so that “turnover” of the value of rice may be realized, bringing multiple profits to Filipino farmers and other stakeholde­rs. LGUs may also manage warehousin­g and maintenanc­e of farm machinerie­s as part of a “tripartite agreement” with DA and farmers; and -- NFA warehouses may be leased out to LGUs who have the advantage of being strategica­lly located where farmers’ produce are thereby becoming efficient in managing this business. Dar said six top rice-producing provinces in the country have already allotted an initial combined PHP1.6-billion fund to directly engage in the rice industry value chain to prop up palay prices. These are Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan. Provincial leaders will use their respective funds to bankroll their direct engagement in the rice industry value chain --from palay-buying, drying, milling to rice marketing. However, Fausto warned the DA should ensure that LGU rice buying and selling should be an “honest to goodness” one, and should not be used by LGUs just to benefit those that patronize them. “You have to be very careful because LGU leaders are political people. You can legalize vote buying through this system. We’re not generalizi­ng all political leaders. But at the end of the day, some look for votes so that they or their relatives will win again next term,” he said. “It should be an honest to goodness way of buying of palay from all sectors, and selling to all. It should not only benefit the selected few (voters),” he added. This new LGU rice buying and selling, though, definitely has an advantage in providing budget for maintenanc­e of warehouses and rice machinerie­s. “There’s no issue if government maintains machinerie­s. There should be training of people on these skills and in marketing goods. If the machines break down, or the warehouses need repair, there will be a budget that may be lent to the LGU,” he said. (PNA)

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