MANILA - Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Friday said that farmer cooperatives would soon be banned from importing rice as they are still allegedly being used by traders to illegally ship the staple to the country.
"I will issue the order not to allow coops and associations... Our orientation is to ban the coops from importing rice," Dar said during the Department of Agriculture's budget hearing at the Senate.
Under the Rice Tariffication Law, traders are allowed to import rice provided that they secure permits and shoulder a 35-percent tariff for grains from Southeast Asian countries, and 50 percent for those sourced from non-ASEAN members.
But several big importers have reportedly been using cooperatives as dummies to import thousands of rice at a lower cost as these farmer groups enjoy tax exemptions under the law.
"They are being used by the traders. Ginamit na 'yan before (That has been done before)," Senate Committee on Agriculture chair Sen. Cynthia Villar told DA officials.
"Noong iniimbestigahan na sila, wala na 'yung trader. Sila (cooperative members) na lang ang naiwan. Sila na ang nakulong kaya kawawa 'yang mga coop na 'yan," she said.
(When they were already being investigated, the traders were gone. They were the only ones left. They were the ones who were jailed and they were very pitiful.)
In 2019, the Philippines - an agricultural country - became the world's top importer of rice after the country allowed the unlimited importation of the staple grain to address inflation.