‘Rice importation must be done for the right reasons’

By John Noel E. Herrera

Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. struck a more balanced chord on proposals to stop the importation of rice amid the harvest season.

In a press conference on Thursday, Defensor said it is important to make a more balanced approach to importation.

The governor said importation is not necessarily bad as it could fill in deficits in prime commodities like rice.

“What we are looking at is a balance. Importation is not an enemy, because, amu na gani may Rice Tariffication Law ina, so that we can import easily kung insufficient ang aton nga production. So there is a reason, ang importante lang, the importation must be done for the correct reason,” he said.

Defensor said importation should be rationalized and “it should go to the place where it is needed so that it does not distort the price of palay, of rice in the retail markets, and it does not also destroy the business of rice.”

The governor was reacting to a resolution passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo requesting President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to stop the importation of rice into the country.

3rd district Board Member Matt Palabrica, principal sponsor of the resolution, said during the SP’s regular session on Sept 12, 2022 that they came up with the resolution after they received reports from farmers that prices of palay ranged from P12 to P14 per kilogram for the months of August to October, which is significantly lower compared to the prices in April and May which were at P19 to P22 per kilogram.

The said months are considered harvest seasons for rice farmers.

Palabrica said that the main reason for the decrease in price range is the entry of imported rice into the market, particularly the 38,400 metric tons of rice from Vietnam that entered the Iloilo Port recently.

He also mentioned a report from the Manila Times that 38,400 metric tons of imported rice were off-loaded at the Iloilo Port, and “it valued at more than P1 billion and additional thousands of metric tons continue to be unloaded recently.”

“This volume, when dumped into the markets of the province and city, would greatly affect the incomes of a large segment of the rice-growing economy of the province; it would bring down the price of newly harvested rice or palay to way below the production cost,” Palabrica stressed.

The board member also said that Iloilo province is a rice-producing economy and “this volume of imported rice will greatly affect the livelihood of the already suffering rice farmers, bringing further economic disaster already broken by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

The SP also said that if the importation continues local farmers might not be able to gain profit and pay production costs due to low palay prices during the harvest season.