Agri chief also mulls 'general safeguards duty'
MANILA — The Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that it was investigating an influx of cheap rice imports, whose tariffs may be increased on top of a "general safeguard duty", as the price of palay slumped to P7 in some areas.
The Rice Tariffication Law removed the cap on imports of the grain, but other measures like the Anti-Dumping Law allows the government to study whether or not there is an oversupply of imported goods, said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
"Ang isang nakikita po natin ay iyong volume ng importation na dumating na sa bansa. Ito nga'y parte ng imbestigasyon o proseso kung sobra-sobra," he told radio DZMM.
"Titingnan kung may basehan na mag-apply or mag-implementa ng general safeguards duty," he added.
(One thing we are seeing is the volume of importation that arrived in the country. This is part of the investigation into whether or not the supply us too much. We will see if there is a basis to apply or implement general safeguards duty.)
Under the Anti-Dumping Law, the agriculture and trade departments can impose a duty on imported products if they are priced "less than its normal value" and are "causing or threatening to cause material injury to a domestic industry."
Through a separate process, President Rodrigo Duterte can also raise the tariffs on rice imports if Congress is not in session, said Dar, who declined to speculate on the value of the possible hike.
"Kung iyong proseso (DA investigation) ay ganoon ang findings na conclusive, iyon po ang pupuntahan," he said.
(If the DA investigation's findings are conclusive, it will lead there.)
The DA has directed traders to submit documents for their rice imports, said Dar.
The agency's investigation will be completed "hopefully by the second week of October", he said.
Farmers have complained that the price of palay has dropped to P7 to P11 a kilo due to a flood of cheap rice imports.
Under the rice tariffication law, the government is mandated to allot P10 billion to aid farmers.
The agriculture department is offering farmers a P15,000 loan payable in 8 years, funds for which came from its credit policy council, Dar earlier said.
In the "later part of September", the government will offer another P25,000 loan package with 2 percent interest payable in 3 years, which would come from rice import tariffs, he said.