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Rice mafia behind tariff cuts on imported grains – farmers

MANILA, Philippines — A rice mafia is behind efforts to bring down the tariff on the imported grains, Rosendo So, chairman of farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) claimed yesterday.

“This could be connected with the mafia as they are in cahoots with the smugglers to bring down the tariff to zero. If that happens, our farmers will suffer, especially during harvest time. Those who are involved in hoarding and smuggling of rice will benefit (from the tariff cut) and not the farmers,” So told The STAR.

So said 2,500 farmers will hold another protest action today in front of the Department of Finance (DOF) main office to call for the removal of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan over their alleged preferential treatment on importation. The two officials are moving to bring down the tariffs on rice and other agricultural imports.

At least 20 more peasant organizations signed the petition to replace Diokno and Balisacan after six groups initiated the campaign to ax the two members of the economic team.

“More than 2,500 farmers will hold a rally in front of the DOF building as part of our campaign to unseat Diokno and Balisacan,” So said, noting that farmers from Northern, Central and Southern Luzon would join the mass action.

“This will be one of a series of protest actions as farmers from Isabela, Visayas and Mindanao will join the next mass action,” So said.

According to So, farmers should remain vigilant as Diokno and Balisacan are just waiting for the end of the session of Congress on Sept. 30 before a directive is issued favoring the tariff cuts on rice.

So noted that President Marcos has pushed for the strengthening of local palay production but the economic team continues to push for importation.

“The consumers will not benefit from the tariff cut as what is being imported is premium rice, not the well-milled rice being sold in the markets,” he added.

On the other hand, So said that Executive Order 39 imposing a price ceiling of P41 and P45 per kilo on regular and well-milled rice should be lifted starting October. “If the palay harvest is enough, the retail prices of rice will automatically go down to P43 to P45 per kilo,” he said.

At the same time, So said the National Food Authority should start buying at P23 per kilo to improve the farmgate price of palay and ensure the country’s buffer stock. “We hope NFA will start to procure already,” he said.

Marcos has announced that the NFA Council has set new buying prices for palay or unhusked rice to P23 per kilo from the current P19 per kilo in an effort to increase the income of farmers.

For his part, SINAG executive director Jayson Cainglet said that more farmers’ groups are expected to join the move to replace Diokno and Balisacan.

“We are expecting more farmers to join us,” Cainglet said as more groups involved in livestock, poultry, corn and allied sectors support efforts to replace Diokno and Balisacan.

SINAG said that projected 3.9 million metric tons of rice imports next year would mean a loss of P33.5 billion for the rice industry once the tariff cut is allowed.

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2023/09/26/2299041/rice-mafia-behind-tariff-cuts-imported-grains-farmers QR Code

Published Date: September 26, 2023

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