SMC eyes rice importation under proposed tariffication scheme

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is ready to boost rice stocks in line with the proposal to remove import limits under the rice tariffication bill.

SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang on Wednesday said the company's grain terminals and feed mills across the country can store imported rice.

"'Yung bawat isang grain terminal namin, we usually handle mga three to four million tons per year on our grain or wheat... For our flour mills, for our feed mills. Eh kung meron kang sampung lugar nun, eh di sobra-sobra yun," Ang said in an interview after a stockholders meeting.

(Translation: We usually handle three to four million tons of grain or wheat in each of our terminals, including for our flour and feed mills. If you have seven places of that, that would excessive.)

SMC currently has the facilities in Davao, Iloilo, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Pangasinan, Bataan, Batangas and Quezon.

According to Ang, SMC's aerated, temperature-controlled facilities will help maintain grain quality, improve food security, and help bring retail rice prices down.

"The intention is to help food security of our country. Number two, and to help local rice farmers. Number three is to help supply consumer with reliable and good quality rice at a low price," he said.

Ang added that additional silos will be built in the facilities to accommodate large volume of rice imports once the law takes in effect.

"Tatayuan natin ng extra silo yun. Para kung maipasa yung batas na pwedng mag-import ng palay, o eh di mag-iimport kami ng palay to store it in our temperature-controlled silo," he said.

(Translation: We'll put up an extra silo, so that when we could by then import unmilled rice, then we would import and store it in our temperature-controlled silo.)

The lack of rice supply is seen as among the top culprits behind the country's rising inflation, which surged to a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in August.

The House of Representatives last month approved on final reading House Bill 7735 that seeks to abolish the quantitative restrictions imposed on rice imports. The Senate, however, has yet to act on the proposal.

Once enacted, businesses and individuals can outsource rice from the country's Southeast Asian neighbors, but will have to comply with 35 percent tariff. The collected taxes will be used to fund mass irrigation, rice storage and research initiatives.