MANILA -- The National Food Authority will buy rough rice from farmers at a higher price while tariffs on further imports this year could be increased to help local producers of the staple grain cope with falling prices, an official said Wednesday.
The NFA will buy palay with 14 percent moisture content at P19 per kilo, compared to the so-called "farm gate" price of P17.62 in the second week of August, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
The rice tariff rate could also be raised to 47 percent from 35 percent since total imports from March reached 2.4 million metric tons compared to the 2 million requirement for the period. This resulted in a surplus of 400,000 metric tons, he told ANC's Early Edition.
"We are serious in projecting a higher level of income for the farmers," Dar said.
Rice farmers have been complaining that the new tariff-based regime on imports of the staple grain caused prices to go down, hurting their income.
The government pushed for tariffs in place of import quotas under the Rice Tariffication Law to bring down prices as the cost of the staple pushed inflation to near 10-year highs in 2018.
The provinces of Isabela and Nueva Ecija will also buy wet palay at P15 per kilo, Dar said.
The NFA has roughly P7 billion per year to buy rice from farmers. Under Rice Tariffication, its functions were limited to buffer stocking.
Dar said the DA was also rolling out the P10 billion annual fund to help farmers cope with the tariff system. Half of the amount for 2019 has been allocated since its release last December.