A HOUSE leader underscored yesterday the need to create a special fund for rice farmers to ensure sustainable rice production with the impending lifting of the quantitative restriction on rice by 2017.
“We need to create a special fund for rice farmers. The revenue to be collected from rice import tariffs should be used to ensure a healthy rice economy that leans toward helping our farmers cope with the worst case scenario once the rice quantitative restriction is lifted next year,” said Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine “Nene” Ramirez-Sato, a member of Commission on Appointment (CA).
Sato, vice chairman of the House committee on economic affairs, issued the call after her meeting Monday last week with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Ernesto M. Pernia who assured her that the Duterte administration intends to use revenues from the planned imposition of tariff on imported rice to support rice farmers.
The lady lawmaker has been calling on concerned government agencies to put in place sufficient safety nets for rice farmers with the non-tariff trade barrier on the staple food to protect rice farmers who will be affected by the removal of the non-tariff trade barrier on the staple food.
Sato expressed concern that resource-poor farmers, particularly rice producers, would not be able compete once imported rice start to flood the market.
A former Governor of Occidental Mindoro, Sato has been getting inputs from local farmers in the province on the lifting of the quantitative restriction on rice next year.
She said many rice farmers remain landless and had to cope with the challenge posed by excessive rice importation.
“The government should put in place necessary measures as safety nets in the form of direct support to the farmers particularly those with small landholdings, such as seed and fertilizer subsidies, free irrigation; training to improve production, packaging of rice products, and access to emerging market chains,” she reiterated.
Sato said the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other agencies involved in promoting food self-sufficiency and security should come up with programs that would boost local rice production and allow farmers to compete against cheaper, imported rice, which consumers would surely prefer to buy compared to locally produced rice.
She said that while consumers would generally benefit from the expected flood of imported rice, the scenario would surely “kill” rice farming, which is the way of life for many farmers in the country.
The congresswoman added that the government should also prepare against the massive destruction caused by flood and typhoons as it aggravates the situation of small farmers with limited or no capital at all.
Sato is worried that the lifting of the QR on rice would force farmers to shift to planting other crops, or worse, give up farming, adversely affecting the country’s rice self-sufficiency goals in particular and food self-sufficiency in general.