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DA asked to control imports of rice, other produce during harvest time

Sacks of rice | Image by chitsu san from Pixabay

The Senate called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its attached agencies to stop issuing phytosanitary permits for importation of rice and other food commodities before or during the harvest season to curb continued drop in farmgate prices nationwide.

Kailangan natin ng mga agarang aksyon upang masolusyunan ang patuloy na pagbaba ng presyo ng palay at iba pang produktong pang-agrikultura [We need immediate action to address the continued fall in the price of rice and other agricultural products]. We support this manifestation and we believe that it is a good first step,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said after the October 19 deliberation on the DA’s P63.96 billion budget for 2021.

The price of palay has dropped by as much as P12 per kilo in some provinces even though the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the average price of palay (unhusked rice) is P17 to P19 per kilogram.

The Senate also called the DA’s attention to the lowered farmgate prices of other agricultural commodities such as corn and poultry, as well as the over-importation and smuggling of fish.

PSA reported that the price of corn went down by 4.6% during the first week of September.

Importation of whole chicken and chicken parts should be paused as well, Pangilinan said.

Kailangang mabawasan na ang ating pag-asa sa pag-aangkat. Para tayo maging food sufficient, kailangan lokal ang ating mindset. Kailangan ding mayroong sapat na suporta upang kayanin ng lokal na mabigyan ng suplay ang buong bansa,” Pangilinan said. Translation: “We need to reduce our reliance on importation. To be food sufficient we need a local-oriented mindset. There should also be enough support to capacitate local production to provide enough supply for the whole country.”

All senators at the hearing seconded the manifestation.

Farmers and fisherfolk, as well as leaders in agriculture and even in local government, have complained about the low prices of their products due to massive importation. Rice farmers, in particular, have called on Congress to review and amend Republic Act No. 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, blaming it for the steep drop in palay prices.

Pangilinan, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, in previous DA budget hearings also expressed alarm over the sudden spike in food prices over the last month, and called for a government revisit of the food supply chain, with focus on logistics and transport bottlenecks.

READ: Solon slams food price surge, calls for supply chain review

The lawmaker suggested bridging the distance between consumer and producer, especially during this pandemic when going out of the house is still dangerous.

He noted some local government units (LGU) are already organizing community or mobile markets and markets on wheels, with LGUs themselves fetching from the farmers the food products and selling or making these available to their constituents.

Under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, LGUs are allowed to procure agricultural products directly from farmers and fisherfolk or agricultural cooperatives and associations.

Bayanihan 2 also directs the adoption of measures to facilitate and improve supply chain movement and minimize disruptions to ensure essential goods, particularly food and medicine, are available.

Aside from improving the national end-to-end supply chain, it also calls for measures to reduce logistics costs “to the maximum extent possible,” especially for basic commodities and services.

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