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Gov’t on alert on rice smuggling, hoarding

Gov’t on alert on rice smuggling, hoarding

With rice imports surging, the government is shoring up tariff collections while also looking into possible hoarding and smuggling amid falling retail prices, according to the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team.

In a speech at the 14th World Rice Conference on Wednesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said revenues from import tariffs slapped on rice already amounted to P11.4 billion at end-October.

Under Republic Act No. 11203, or the rice tariffication law implemented since March, the following tariff rates apply: 35 percent if rice was imported from Asean; 40 percent if within the minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons, from countries outside Asean; and 180 percent if above the MAV and coming from a non-Asean country.

Since collections this year already exceeded the annual P10 billion to be automatically allocated to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, Dominguez said the government had “ample means to do even more to make our agricultural production more efficient.”

Dominguez said the government would extend help to farmers especially affected by the drop in palay prices.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the finance chief said prices had declined to its current average of P15.71 per kilo from its “normal” price of P17.23 during the 2015 to 2017 period.

He said this meant an average loss of P1.52 per kilo. He noted, however, farmers in some provinces even lost P5.63 while others saw a P3.75-increase.

“The government is constantly monitoring location-specific prices so that interventions may be deployed on an evidence-based and tightly targeted manner,” Dominguez said.