MANILA - (UPDATE) The National Food Authority (NFA) on Monday said that it will stop regulating international and domestic rice trade starting Tuesday, March 5, when the Rice Tariffication Law takes effect.
The agency said that it will also stop licensing and registering entities engaged in the grains business, collecting regulatory fees and enforcing rules and regulations in the grains business, among others.
“We will just be waiting for the release of the final IRR (implementing rules and regulations) before we fully shift our focus on buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies, as stated under the law, and on the eventual restructuring of our agency to suit its new functions,” said NFA officer-in-charge Tomas Escarez.
The IRR for the new law is expected to be released by the National Economic and Development Authority on Tuesday.
“March is the start of the summer crop harvest and we are ready to buy palay from our farmers,” Escarez said.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, meanwhile, said Filipino rice farmers can compete with imported rice by planting better varieties of the grain.
“That opens a new window of opportunity for Filipino farmers na kung ganun pala ang treatment ng consumers sa good quality rice varieties, then that could be the focus of Filipino farmers,” Piñol said.
He added that the local rice industry will receive a lot of funding this year and next year because the tariffs that will be collected from imported rice will be channeled back to Filipino rice farmers.
Farmers' groups have opposed the removal of import quotas on rice, saying flooding the local market with cheap imported rice will kill the Philippine rice industry.
The Alliance of Rice Farmers Against Rice Tariffication said the measure, meant to make rice more affordable in the Philippines, will lead to the "death of the rice industry."
"Pres. Duterte should review and junk this law and in its place, draft another measure that represents the interest of rice farmers and producers, consumers not only the interest of importers," the group said in a statement.
Economic managers had been batting for the removal of import quotas on rice as a key measure to control inflation, which hovered near 10-year highs last year.
- With a report from April Rafales, ABS-CBN News
NFA, rice, tariffication law, NEDA, inflation, food, food security, agriculture