NEGOCC PREPARES FARMERS FOR RICE TARIFFICATION
BACOLOD CITY — The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) of Negros Occidental underscored the need to prepare rice farmers for coping with challenges brought by the tariffication measure.
“Our farmers really need the help of the government mainly in terms of lowering down production cost and increasing productivity,” Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino said on Sunday, two days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the measure lifting restrictions on rice importation.
Masculino noted that one major effect would be cheaper price of imported than locally-produced rice.
Necessary interventions should be done immediately given the little time to prepare as the implementing rules and regulations may be out soon, he added.
Negros Occidental is known as the country’s top sugar-producing province, but it has also become one of the top 10 rice producers in the past years in its bid to become 100 percent rice-sufficient.
Masculino said one measure to reduce production cost of Negrense rice farmers is mechanization, which the provincial government has already been implementing since last year.
He added that if the government can seriously implement mechanization by providing funds for the purchase of machineries, it would be a big help because labor comprises more than 50 percent of the total production cost.
“Our mechanization accomplishment, especially in the planting and harvesting stages, is still minimal. If we can just fully mechanize at least our irrigated areas of 40 hectares, it would already be a big thing,” Masculino said.
Duterte certified the rice tariffication bill as urgent in October 2018 “to address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, to prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.”
A month after the President certified the measure as urgent, a report on the bill was ratified by the bicameral conference committee.
Under the rice tariffication bill, quantitative restrictions on rice importation are lifted and private traders are allowed to import the commodity from countries of their choice.
The bill imposes a 25-percent duty on rice imports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states and a 50-percent rate on imports from non-members of the regional bloc. (PNA)
Photo from AFP/BusinessWorld