Excess rice import tariffs earmarked for cash transfers to farmers — DOF

Excess rice import tariffs earmarked for cash transfers to farmers — DOF

MANILA, Philippines — The excess of P10 billion collected from tariffs on rice imports will be used to fund a two-year unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program for small farmers affected by falling palay (paddy rice) farmgate prices, the Department of Finance said Tuesday.

The subsidy will be available to rice farmers tilling two hectares and below, the DOF added.

“The P10 billion is already fixed, it already has an allocation (for Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund). The excess will be part of the P6 billion that will be allocated for two years for the farmers,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.

Last February, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Rice Tarrification Law which lifted the more than two-decade-old cap on rice imports in a bid to bring down prices of the staple grain.

Under the law, individuals and businesses can import additional volumes of the crop from Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam but will have to pay tariffs. The proceeds will be used to fund mass irrigation, warehousing and rice research to help local farmers compete.

But some groups are calling for the suspension of the law, saying the influx of cheap rice from abroad has been hurting Filipino farmers. Government data shows prices of palay plunged 24.49% in the third quarter, as farmers were forced to sell their produce to traders at lower prices amid the presence of imported rice in the market.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier announced the rollout of this UCT program, which he said would cover an initial P3 billion this year and another P3 billion in 2020. 

Dominguez said he was informed by Dar that the Department of Agriculture already has a list of the farmers who will benefit from the UCTs. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral