DA assures ₱10-B yearly allocation for rice fund despite expected lower imports due to pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has assured that the rice fund will have its ₱10 billion allocation every year despite an expected decrease in imports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DA Director Roy Abaya made the assurance during an online briefing on Tuesday. He said this is guaranteed under the Rice Tariffication Law, which removed restrictions on rice imports in exchange of a 35% tariff on Southeast Asian grain. The law took effect in March 2019.

This rice fund intends to help in the modernization of the rice industry to boost its competitiveness.

Collected tariffs are used to fund the ₱10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund for six years, subject to review if it will be extended or not.

The DA said that for 2019, total collections reached more than ₱12 billion. Of this, ₱5 billion will be used for its machine component; ₱3 billion for seed component; ₱1 billion for training programs; and ₱1 billion for loan programs. Excess fund will be used for programs like crop diversification, it said.

In the first five months of 2020, rice imports reached 1.086 million metric tons (MT), versus 1.06 million MT in the same period last year, according to the Bureau of Plant Industry. The latter includes about 400,000 MT imported prior to the implementation of the measure.

Total imports in 2019 exceeded 2.2 million MT.

Some rice farmers have called for the suspension of importation since this has caused the decline of the price of the staple grain in 2019. However, the DA said this should be given time since the law just took effect.