DA sees higher rice prices amid removal of import quota

The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects prices of rice to increase resulting from the lifting of restrictions on rice imports by July 2017.

But the DA is bent on supporting the rice sector, which is considered as the cornerstone of the country's food security policy.

DA Secretary Emmanuel F. PiAol said the supposed benefits of full liberalization such as cheaper rice for all consumers could be temporary.

PiAol noted domestic rice production will drop and the country will be increasingly dependent on rice imports, as many Filipino farmers who are unable to compete with cheaper imported rice are shifting to other jobs.

"We expect this to quickly exert pressure on rice demand in the thinly traded international markets and steadily increasing international prices. We may actually end up with higher rice prices of which we have no control or influence," he said in a statement.

PiAol thus reiterated his department's stand for the extension of the quantitative restriction on rice imports for at least another two years to allow the Duterte administration's support programs to "firmly take root and set the sector on the proper path of sustained self-sufficiency at competitive levels."

"Exposing the sector, particularly the small rice farmers, to unbridled international competition from heavily subsidized exporters will cost the country huge social and economic consequences," he said.

But whether the rice QR is extended or allowed to expire, the DA is implementing various initiatives to support the rice sector, including the President's Masaganang Ani 6000 and the completion of the rural infrastructure program, particularly the farm-to-market roads network.

The President's Masaganang Ani 6000 is a comprehensive rice production support initiative that targets attaining an average yield of 6 metric ton per hectare with high technology.

PiAol said a major push to enhance innovation through increased support to rice science and technology as well as close coordination with the local government units (LGUs) were also important in revitalizing the national and local extension service systems.

Further, the agriculture chief stressed the government would provide massive support to farm mechanization to lower the cost of production and increase efficiency.

"We are optimistic that with the support of the President and Congress, we will be able to put in place the necessary programs, whose benefits and sustainability will go beyond the term of this administration, that will finally put us on the path to sustained food security for the country and a more progressive rice sector," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency