THE National Food Authority (NFA) has 180 applicants from the private sector to import 1.19 million metric tons (MT) of rice under the out-quota scheme as the government prepares to lift a cap on purchases, with its tariffication law for the staple expected to be in force “soon.”
The applications are for the importation of white rice at 5% and 25% brokens, fragrant rice at 5% brokens and glutinous rice at 10% brokens.
The NFA said this number of applications from rice traders as of Jan. 21 is still safe for now.
“Until this time, [this is] still okay. While there are 180 applicants, most of them have not actually imported yet,” Tomas R. Escarez, NFA Officer-in-Charge Administrator, said in a mobile message on Tuesday.
Asked what is the cut-off for applicants, Mr. Escarez replied, “That has not been discussed at the NFA Council yet.”
Out of the 180, 18 have been given permits to import previously, according to NFA data as of Jan. 18.
Last year, the NFA awarded five private firms from Southeast Asia contracts to import 500,000 MT of rice from Thailand and Vietnam.
It also sealed the importation of 250,000 MT of rice via government-to-government deals with Thailand and Vietnam, which will be its last purchase as the state moves to liberalize rice imports.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte in October ordered the “unimpeded” importation of rice after the country’s inflation rate shot up to 6.7% in September and October, the highest in nearly a decade, partly due to food prices.
Importers are allowed to bring in rice from any country, but grains from Southeast Asian suppliers will be charged a tariff of 35% while those from elsewhere will face a 50% charge.
Lawmakers have approved the bill removing the import cap on rice imports and replacing it with tariffs. Mr. Duterte will “most likely” sign it into law “soon,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said on Tuesday.
Inflation eased in November and December, and the rice tariffication law could help curb it this year by as much as 0.7 percentage point, the central bank has said. Rice is the biggest food item in the country’s consumer price index.
Under the rice tariffication measure, the NFA will focus solely on procuring rice from local farmers for buffer stocking while importation duties will be left to private firms. The tariffs collected from the importation will go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund which will help Filipino rice farmers boost productivity by providing education, seeds, and technology among others.
In a joint statement, business groups said they support the government’s move to liberalize the economy via the tariffication measure and urged Mr. Duterte to enact the bill soon.
These groups are the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Investment House Association of the Philippines, Judicial Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines, Inc., Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Philippine Investment Funds Association, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. and Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines, Inc.
“The bill is now with Malacañang and we urge the President to sign it into law. Upon enactment, the financial resources, management expertise, logistics support and extensive nationwide distribution system of the private sector will be harnessed to ensure food security, particularly of the most important food staple — rice,” the joint statement read.
The groups said the measure will help address via “free and open competition” the supply concerns that stoked inflation last year.
“We urge the sustained provision of essential support services and facilities — irrigation, better seedlings, modern growing and efficient harvesting technology, safe agricultural chemicals and post-harvest facilities — by the government to further assist the farm sector to be more productive and increase rural income,” they added.
Source :- Bworldonline.com