DA gets P5-B to cush­ion im­pact of rice im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion

Sun.Star Pampanga - - BUSINESS! -

Bud­get Sec­re­tary Ben­jamin E. Dio­kno said that PHP5 bil­lion has al­ready been re­leased un­der the 2018 na­tional bud­get to pro­tect farm­ers from the pos­si­ble ad­verse ef­fects of the lift­ing of the Min­i­mum Ac­cess Vol­ume (MAV) on rice.

Last De­cem­ber 2018, a Spe­cial Al­lot­ment Re­lease Or­der (SARO) amount­ing to PHP5 bil­lion was re­leased to the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA) for the Na­tional Rice Pro­gram, the ad­min­is­tra­tion's eco­nomic team an­nounced in a joint state­ment on Thurs­day.

This pro­gram is com­ple­men­tary to the Rice Tar­if­fi­ca­tion Law’s Rice Com­pet­i­tive­ness En­hance­ment Fund, or RCEF, a PHP10-bil­lion fund that will help farm­ers tran­si­tion to a new rice regime.

Ac­cord­ing to Dio­kno, “we are lis­ten­ing very care­fully to the con­cerns of our farm­ers. Some are worried that the RCEF is an un­pro­grammed fund, which can only be re­leased once there is ex­cess rev­enue. We will make sure that a min­i­mum of PHP10 bil­lion is made avail­able for the RCEF per year in farmer sup­port pro­grams even if tar­iff col­lec­tions are less than ex­pected.”

“PHP5 bil­lion was re­leased in De­cem­ber 2018 to help pro­tect farm­ers through the Na­tional Rice Pro­gram. An­other PHP10 bil­lion will be re­leased through the RCEF once ex­cess rev­enue col­lec­tion is re­al­ized from the tar­iffs on rice im­ports,” Na­tional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (NEDA) Sec­re­tary Ernesto M. Per­nia said.

RCEF will be used to pro­vide farm­ers tools and equip­ment, as­sis­tance in the pro­duc­tion, pro­mo­tion, and dis­tri­bu­tion of cer­ti­fied rice seeds, up­grad­ing of post-har­vest stor­age fa­cil­i­ties, credit as­sis­tance, ir­ri­ga­tion sup­port, and R&D sup­port.

“The RCEF will en­sure that pro­tec­tion will go to farm­ers through di­rect sup­port pro­grams. We will make cer­tain that af­fected farm­ers will re­ceive proper and ad­e­quate sup­port as they tran­si­tion to a new regime. We will also es­tab­lish trans­parency and griev­ance mech­a­nisms for this pur­pose,” said Per­nia.

The Rice Tar­if­fi­ca­tion Law was signed and ap­proved by Pres­i­dent Duterte last Fe­bru­ary 14. The law, which seeks to lib­er­al­ize the im­por­ta­tion of rice, is ex­pected to lower re­tail prices of rice, help lower in­fla­tion by 0.5 to 0.7 per­cent­age points this year, and im­prove farm­ers’ in­comes, pro­duc­tiv­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los G. Dominguez III, “On eco­nomic im­pact, lib­er­al­iz­ing the rice sec­tor could also trans­late into up­grades from credit rat­ing agen­cies, thus lower bor­row­ing costs for the coun­try, be­sides mak­ing it more at­trac­tive to in­vestors.”

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