Filipino farmers marked the first quarter of the year with a record palay production, boosting hopes of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for a bountiful harvest for the entire year.
This, however, also prompted agricultural groups to question the government’s recent decision to lower tariffs on rice.
In a statement, the DA said rice farmers harvested a total of 4.63 million metric tons (MT) of palay during the first three months of year year, up by 9 percent from year-ago level. This also bested the record harvest in 2018.
John de Leon, director of Philippine Rice Research Institute, attributed the production growth to improvements in both the areas harvested and yield, which grew by 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
He said the growth in area harvested was brought about by the above-normal rainfall due to the series of typhoons that hit farms in the last quarter of 2020, which enabled farmers to do a quick “turn-around” planting.
Rice policy changes
Higher palay output was observed in both irrigated and rain-fed areas, De Leon added.
“This record first-quarter yield further boosts our confidence to hit, or even surpass, the 20.4 million MT palay production target we set this year, barring strong typhoons and other natural calamities,” Agriculture Secretary Wiliam Dar said.
“Our palay farmers are confident to continue planting rice, contrary to what detractors were peddling at the start of the implementation of the changes in the country’s rice policy,” he added.
Rice tariff cut unnecessary
While industry leaders welcomed the news, this also prompted some of them to question the motive behind President Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) No. 135 which cut the tariff rates for rice.
From 40 to 50 percent, the tariff rate for rice was slashed to 35 percent.
According to the Office of the President, the tariff cut was intended to “diversify the country’s market sources, augment rice supply, keep prices affordable, and reduce pressures on inflation.”
However, Raul Montemayor, chair of the Federation of Free Farmers, said the move was “baseless and unnecessary.”
The group noted that the DA, itself, had claimed the country was on track to reaching its highest palay production yet, and used government data to show that rice supply and prices had been stable.
The group also called on lawmakers to investigate the EO, especially the manner by which it was approved.
“Like a thief in the night, EO 135 was issued while everyone else was working on the pork tariff compromise. This was done behind our backs, as we, the stakeholders, the Senate, and the economic team of the government were forging a compromise,” said Rosendo So, chair of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura. INQ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.