By Vina Medenilla
“Rice remains as the staple food of Filipinos. And there is no food that is used as widely as rice,” says Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo on the Philippines being the sixth largest rice-consuming countries in the world.
After over a year of enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), updates on government efforts have been discussed in a webinar entitled ‘Sa Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), Sambayanang Pilipino, Tuloy ang Panalo,’ headed by the concerned agencies: Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
RTL as a boost to farmers’ productivity
Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law, passed last February 2019, aims to modernize the agricultural sector as a way of making the sector globally competitive. Under this law, it permits the entry of imported rice while imposing a tariff, which varies depending on the volume of imported goods.
Although this hugely affects our farmers due to the higher supply and competition in the market, RTL supports rice farmers by increasing their productivity and income through the P10 billion annual budget from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF). RCEF comes from the tariff revenues of rice imports. The said P10 billion is allotted to farm machinery and equipment (P5 million), high-quality rice seed development, propagation, and promotion (P3 million), training for skills enhancement (P1 million), and expanded rice credit assistance to the farmers (P1 million).
NEDA Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua says that several factors hinder the productivity and competitiveness of farmers in rice production. Some of these limitations include natural disasters that damage crops, mountainous areas that are not feasible for rice planting, and limited sources of natural irrigation in the country.
To make up for these challenges, DA Secretary William Dar shares the efforts that the government has accomplished under the four components of the RTL including seeds, mechanization, credit, and extension service.
Secretary Dar says, “We hope to see that after six years of RTL, we have raised the productivity of our farmers from the current average harvest of four metric tons per hectare to at least six metric tons per hectare. Secondly, we should have reduced the average cost by 30% from the current cost ranging from 12 pesos to 14 pesos per kilogram to ensure bigger profit margins.”
With lower production cost and higher productivity, Secretary Dar added it will not only allow Filipino farmers to offer affordable rice to the customers, particularly the poor, but this will also enable them to compete globally.
From October 2019 up to now, they’ve distributed over three million bags of certified inbred seeds to more than a million farmers covering around one million hectares of land.
In terms of rice farm equipment, 1,108 out of the 2,938 machines have also given away to 625 farmer cooperatives and associations.
The amount of one billion pesos has also been loaned out to 5,671 farmers in 2019, while in 2020, they’ve released 102 million to 610 farmers and 15 cooperatives. These credits entail minimal interest rates and collateral requirements for the farmers.
Extension service component
This last initiative involves training for farmers, scholarship grants, and the establishment of farm schools around the country. There have been 53 farm schools built, over 800 different sets of training conducted, and 20, 231 individuals have received scholarship grants. There are about three million copies of informational materials given to the farmers, too.
“Rice is a part of the Filipino culture,” says, DA Secretary William Dar, “To make rice production profitable and the staple affordable to consumers, care and production, processing, post-harvest, and logistic systems must be more efficient, inclusive, and sustainable.”
The implementation of RTL has both positive and negative impacts, says Dar. The positive side includes the decline of retail prices of regular milled rice from the previous P45 per kilo in 2018 to an average of P37 from September to December 2019 that as per Dar, has benefitted millions of Filipinos.
To watch the webinar, click here.