Farmers’ groups stormed the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Quezon City Wednesday demanding the repeal of the Rice Tarrification Law that liberalized rice importation.

The measure triggered an influx of imported rice more than what the country needed causing a downtrend of local farmgate rice prices.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered the suspension of rice importation but farmers believe the order was useless.

Ito ay huli na, dahil nakapasok na dito ang almost 3 million metric tons na imported na bigas at ang 250,000 sacks na smuggled na bigas. Natuklasan sa bodega sa Bulacan… huli na. Ito na ang epekto nito na talagang bumagsak na ang presyo ng palay,” Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

Leonardo Montemayor of the Federation of Free Farmers agrees that the amount of rice imported to the country has doubled than what is needed.

He added that farmers are estimated to suffer losses of up to P140-B this year. 

Montemayor, a former Agriculture secretary, lamented that the number of farmers in the Philippines continues to dwindle.

An economic advocacy group calls President Duterte’s move to suspend rice imports a big mistake.

Foundation for Economic Freedom president Calixto Chikiamco said the measure will only reward rice traders who hoarded their rice.

He said once the value of rice goes up because of the suspension, hoarders would be able to sell their stock at higher prices. 

The President also ordered government to purchase farmers’ produce.

But another farmers’ group said the order came too late.

Patapos na yung harvests, wala na mga palay sa mga maliiit na magsasaka, kung hindi ito ay nasa kamay na ng mga malalakig palay traders, naibenta na ng mababang presyo,” Nicasio Ortiz of Alyansang Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon said.

The DA admitted it will take some time before the farmers experience the benefits of the rice tariffication law.

That is why they allocated some P10 billion each year for the next six years to support Filipino farmers.

Socio-Economic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia meanwhile believed that Duterte is still considering the suspension.

He added that the President will likely consult the Cabinet about the matter during their next meeting. (Jasper Camilo)