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New rice import shipment deadline seen possibly disrupting market

THE ADDED time given to rice importers to bring in their shipments is “ill-advised” and could disrupt the market for domestically-grown rice if shipments coincide with the harvest, a farmer’s organization said.

In a statement Tuesday, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said the additional time given to rice importers could depress prices of palay, or unmilled rice, hindering the recovery efforts of farmers harvesting their dry-season crop in March after the late-year typhoons in 2020.

In a Dec. 16 memorandum circular, the Department of Agriculture (DA) allowed an additional 25 days for importers to bring in their rice, after the industry raised concerns about possible delivery delays.

“The actual product/consignment must arrive no later than 60 days from the date of issue of the sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) for rice coming from ASEAN countries, except Myanmar, and 90 days for those coming from Myanmar and other countries,” according to the circular.

“The DA continues to appeal to importers’ nationalistic sense to ensure fair and equitable price of local rice by avoiding arrivals of imports during peak harvest periods,” it added in the circular.

The previous deadlines were 35 days from ASEAN countries and 65 days from Myanmar and other countries.

Mr. Montemayor said it was irresponsible for the DA to rely on rice traders to time the arrival of imports to avoid the peak harvest period.

“The DA’s job is to maintain stock levels within a target range and then calibrate the arrival of imports that would supplement local production, so as to avoid supply gluts or shortages,” Mr. Montemayor said.

“It will be irresponsible for the DA to rely on traders to strike this balance and temper their appetite for making money,” he added.

Mr. Montemayor said the DA did not consult farmers and other stakeholders in extending the shipment deadlines.

The FFF said that as of Dec. 4, rice imports amounted to 1.974 million tons, up 6.3% from the 1.857 million tons imported during the first 10 months of the effectivity of Republic Act No. 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, which took effect in March 2019. The law removed quotas on rice imports and required importers to pay tariffs of 35% on Southeast Asian grain.

The DA was asked to comment but had not replied at deadline time. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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