The government is ending the monopoly of the National Food Authority over rice importation, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Monday.
Lopez said Malacañang Palace was preparing an order that would allow the private sector to undertake the importation of rice, while leaving domestic rice buying to NFA.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte had agreed to empower private traders to bring rice from other countries, as needed, and aÄºlow market forces to determine the price.
“The President agreed since the QR [quantitative restriction on rice] was about to be lifted by July,” he said.
The lifting of the rice QR will be backed by an executive order which is also expected to be released on July 1. It was expected to be approved by the Cabinet soon, Lopez said.
The QR on rice is essentially an import ban, with only the NFA allowed to bring in imported rice to control its entry and prevent imports from competing with local harvests.
Lopez said there were suggestions to continue government-to-government rice import transactions but President Duterte rejected the proposals.
“In previous times, we are alloting as much as as P200 billion for G2G transactions, but we’ve also been burned by this several times. Much is lost especially when prices were down,” Lopez said.
He said there were also times when G2G buying was out of timing, resulting in the government buying at a higher price.
There are also no laws that will hinder the private sector from bringing in rice which is considered to be the Philippines’ most sensitive agriculture product, along with sugar.
Traders are allowed to import rice under the so-called minimum access volume, a commitment of the Philippines under the World Trade Organization.
“Let the private sector import and pay the 35-percent tariff. In this case, the government also earns revenues,” Lopez said.
He said the Agriculture Department would issue advisories after it determined how much rice needed to be imported, “so as not to flood the market.”