It will surely benefit the consumers, but lifting the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice, without providing the agriculture sector with the appropriate protection, will burden rice farmers, an official of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror last Friday, PCC Economics Director Benjamin E. Radoc Jr. said the government, particularly the Department of Agriculture (DA), should provide rice farmers the proper safeguards before it allows the entry of more rice imports.
“The DA must prepare the sector first before we open the market [to foreign entities],” Radoc said.
As the state’s antitrust agency, the PCC perceives the lifting of the QR presents opportunities to consumers. Without the constraint, buyers can now choose between local rice and foreign rice, which is expected to be cheaper due to low production cost.
Once the QR expires, Radoc said the country will be flooded with Thai and Vietnamese rice, which he described as not only cheaper, but also of better quality.
“Filipino rice farmers are not the best producers of [the staple] for these reasons: because of technology, the culture of land that we have. So, if you are the DA, help them identify where they are better at,” he said.
The PCC official said the DA must examine the comparative advantage of Filipino farmers, and to look into opportunities it can offer to farming households.
Radoc urged the DA to cooperate with local government units in assisting farming households develop a “more diversified set of income”.
As an alternative, the government can offer regular jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities to members of farming household, while preparing the rice sector.
Radoc said imposing tariffs on rice imports is not the “proper way” to address the problem. “If you lift the QR and replace it
with tariffs, what difference will that make?”
For instance, imposing a high tariff on imported rice that are on a par with those produced locally would not benefit consumers as this would not result in lower prices.
“At the end of the day, we want to have a healthy competition for the consumers to benefit, and we do that because we force the producers to be more efficient,” Radoc said.