Rice Tariffication pours tons of poor quality, pesticide-sprayed imported rice to Ph, stripped P95B income of Filipino farmers

May 24, 2019

The private sector expressed fear the Rice Tariffication Act will pour tons of poor quality, pesticide-sprayed imported rice and has so far stripped away P95 billion in income to Filipino farmers at a P5 per kilo farmgate loss.

   Companies participating in a dialogue of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food Inc. (PCAFI) with Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel T Cayanan disclosed the present reality of previous fears prior to RTA ratification.

   “Before importation was only for buffer stocking.  But now, importation is the rule.  It becomes a permanent solution to the rice shortage.  Rice from Thailand and Vietnam is not as good as local rice,” said an entrepreneur of Chen Yi Agventures which built Visayas’s most modern rice complex in Alang Alang, Leyte.

   “We produce local rice; we do not mix with imports.  It’s entirely good– much better quality than imported.  But their rice has long been stocked in the warehouse, shipped for some time, and stocked again in local warehouses.  Their rice is sprayed with pesticides because of bukbok (pests) and  with artificial fragrance because it smells old.”

   Frisco M. Malabanan, SL Agritech Corp. rice consultant, said at the prevailing price of palay (rice husk) at farmgate which declined by around P5 per kilo, Filipino farmers are deprived with as much as P95 billion in income. 

   It is based on the country’s local palay production of 19 million metric tons.

Dr. Frisco M. Malabanan

Palay’s farmgate price in some parts of Central Luzon had already dropped to P11 to P13 or even P10 per kilo since RTA, according to Federation of Central Luzon Farmers’ Cooperatives (FCLFC) Chairman Simeon Sioson. 

   This is from the previous P17 to P20 per kilo at farmgate.

   In the market, imported rice looks new, shiny, fragrant (because of the pandan flavour spray) and nice as some of them appear to be whole grains and not broken rice (at times due to mixture with local rice).

   But indeed, these are the poorest of all rice as Philippines imports the cheaper, broken rice, according to the Chen Yi investor.

   Even the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEP) may not be effectively implemented.

   This is as DA had failed to raise many farmers’ living levels even despite the ACEF (Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund).

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said DA does not appear prepared (in technical, staff capability, administrative capability) to implement the P5 billion RCEP mechanization program.

PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said DA does not appear prepared (in technical, staff capability, administrative capability) to implement the P5 billion RCEP mechanization program.

   “As to the beneficiaries, how will you identify them? About 80% of cooperatives are non-compliant with CDA (Cooperatives Devt Authority) certification.  If you deal with them, you will be dealing with non-existent institutions,” said Fausto.

   DA-Philmech (Phil. Center for Postharvest Devt. & Mechanization) hardly has people and equipment to carry out distribution of P5 billion RCEF fund. 

   “Even Amtech (Agricultural Machinery Testing Evaluation Center)  under the University of the Philippines’ Los Banos is not capable of such supporting that huge task of testing machines to support the RCEP mechanization program,” said Fausto.

  He said machines should not be carelessly distributed to farmers if they do not have resources to at least maintain the machines – or these machines will just be sold or abandoned.

   This is much as the Philippine Carabao Center does not just give away buffaloes to farmers who do not have the resources (land, feeding/milking facilities, etc) to raise them well .

   Amtech is the agency tasked to test quality of imported machines.  However, even its legal mandate is questionable in order to support DA.

   Nevertheless, Cayanan, who represented DA Sec. Emmanuel F. Pinol during the PCAFI dialogue, said RCEF will tap resources of the DA Regional Field Units (RFO).  Initial beneficiaries will be farmers in irrigators’ associations.

   DA also started reviewing its beneficiary list after farmers’ benefit programs had been transferred from the Department of Social Welfare & Devt (DSWD) to DA due to the Napoles controversy, said Cayanan.

   Chen Yi was concerned the RTA will sidetrack government’s focus on modernizing local agriculture.

   “It will be very easy to get import permit. We’ll not work on productivity.   We’re putting food security at risk.  What happens if Thailand and Vietnam can longer supply us because they also have their own food security issues or if China or US will import more?  They can pay more money.”

   Chen Yi poured since 2014 a huge investment of P1.7 billion in an integrated rice complex in Alang Alang, Leyte in order to help uplift farmers from poverty after it was devastated by typhoon Yolanda.

   The company was since alarmed on the Philippines’ rice situation since the 2008 crisis caused the country to import more than one million metric tons with some volume reaching  a high price of $1,800 per metric ton.

   With the financing of Land Bank of the Philippines,  Chen Yi put up the rice operation engaged in growing seeds, planting rice, harvest, drying and processing, and distribution.  Its aim is to cut production cost from P14 per kilo to P6 per kilo to be competitive with Thailand and Vietnam.

   As to the training component of RCEP, Cayanan said Sec. Gen. Isidro Lapena (Technical Education & Skills Devt. Authority) committed to deploying trainers for farmers’ use of machines. (Growth Publishing for PCAFI)

DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Pinol with Chen Yi investors

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