The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) urged the public to give the Rice Tariffication Law a chance to contribute to the agricultural sector and boost the economy. Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua says that the full benefits of the law will be gradually revealed once the local market “adjusts and completes its transition.” It’s been more than a year since the law was signed—can farmers take more birth pains from this supposed crisis solution?

The agency cites a 2019 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) where it says that the law will bolster economic growth by at least 0.13 percent in 2025. Another assessment by IFPRI this year also shows that lower rice prices can reduce poverty incidence by 1.2 percent as the poorest households are net buyers of rice. Malnutrition among children and risk of hunger are also projected to decrease by 2.8 percent and 15.4 percent respectively, by 2025.

Under the law, a 35 percent tariff on imports is put in place of quantitative restriction on rice. Many farmer groups have called to nullify the law as it resulted in falling farmgate prices as competition in the market increased. With doors for foreign rice importers left wide open, Kilusan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas sees the law as a “death warrant” that would eventually “wipe out” Filipino rice farmers in the industry. 

A year after the law’s implementation, the country is already the largest rice importer in the world in 2019 while local farmers lost P68.18 billion—which is double the gains of consumers. Despite worrying results, the government still places emphasis on driving down the price of the staple and keeping inflation under control. Tariff revenues are intended to be used to finance farm mechanization and other productivity enhancement programs.

Are these said “long-term benefits” worth all the losses and suffering of both farmers and consumers alike?

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