Farmers plan to challenge legality of reduced rice tariff

Farmers plan legal challenge against reduced rice tariffs

Farmers are considering legal action against the recently approved reduction in tariffs on imported rice by President Marcos. The former agriculture secretary, Leonardo Montemayor, stated that they are prepared to file a temporary restraining order and organize nationwide protests in response to the decision.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by Marcos, approved the Comprehensive Tariff Program for 2024-2028, which includes a decrease in rice tariffs from 35 to 15 percent. This move is aimed at lowering rice prices to P29 per kilo, according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Montemayor expressed concerns that the removal of safety nets for local farmers through the tariff cuts could have negative repercussions on various agricultural products, including rice, corn, pork, and chicken. He emphasized that farmers and millers are likely to face significant challenges due to the elimination of tariff and non-tariff protection for sensitive agricultural products.

Despite the NEDA Board’s decision, Montemayor pointed out that it still requires an executive order to be signed by the President before becoming enforceable. He hopes that there will be an opportunity to appeal to the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the President to reconsider the tariff cuts before they take effect.

Critics argue that the reduced rice tariff may not lead to a decrease in retail prices, especially considering international market price increases and the depreciation of the Philippine peso. Montemayor also highlighted that farmers were not consulted by the DA or the Tariff Commission before the decision to lower the rice tariff was made.

Additionally, a watchdog group contradicted the government’s claims about prevailing rice prices in the market, stating that prices in Metro Manila markets were significantly higher than reported. The group’s spokesperson, Cathy Estavillo, raised concerns about the discrepancy between actual market prices and the government’s projections for lower retail prices.

Experts suggest that the projected drop in retail rice prices may not fully materialize, as it depends on traders and retailers passing on their cost savings to consumers. They also emphasize the importance of ensuring that affordable rice varieties are made available to the public through importation.

As debates continue over the impacts of reduced rice tariffs, stakeholders are closely monitoring the situation to assess its implications on farmers, consumers, and the overall agricultural sector.

Leave a Reply