Agri chief Dar to bar farmer co-ops from importing rice amid ‘dummy-for-traders’ issues

File photo: Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar during a virtual meeting with BusinessMirror reporters.

AGRICULTURE Secretary William D. Dar said on Friday he will issue an order barring farmers’ cooperatives and associations from importing rice amid issues that they are being used as fronts or dummies by unscrupulous traders.

Dar made the pronouncement during the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food hearing on a joint resolution to allocate all tariffs collected — in excess of P10 billion from rice imports — as direct cash assistance to farmers tilling 1 hectare and below.

In the same hearing, Dar disclosed that the Department of Agriculture (DA) was already studying whether to continue to allow cooperatives to import rice under the liberalized rice trade regime amid concerns that they are used as dummies by traders.

He revealed that their “orientation” is to ban cooperatives from importing rice.

But a few minutes after, Dar immediately made the pronouncement that, “I will issue an order not to allow coops and associations to import.”

The issue on coops was raised anew earlier this week by Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, head of the agriculture committee. She told the DA to closely monitor the farmer cooperatives amid reports that many of them are being used by rice traders and importers to buy from abroad. 

“There are a lot of co-ops importing rice again. Is that right? Cooperatives importing rice without tariffs? Ha? Is that right? Ha?” she asked the department, represented by Dar and Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan, at a virtual hearing last Monday.

Besides paying the farmer groups a measly amount in exchange for using their permits, these unscrupulous businessmen also cheat the government by undervaluing their imports, an earlier investigative story by the BusinessMirror had showed.

The BusinessMirror broke the story last year that unscrupulous traders continue to use farmers cooperatives’ and associations as their fronts and dummies even after the rice industry was liberalized. (Read the award-winning story here:

The latest pronouncement of Dar is the latest in the string of stories published by the BusinessMirror on the country’s rice importation system, particularly issues on undervaluation and cooperatives.

A BusinessMirror report on Friday (October 16) said that some erring rice importers have availed themselves of legal remedies to avert paying charges for their “undervalued” shipments last year, as farmers pressed authorities to move more quickly against violators to plug the huge revenue drain of the government.

Customs Assistant Commissioner and spokesman Vincent Philip Maronilla told the BusinessMirror on Thursday they have yet to collect the total P1.4 billion charged to over 40 erring rice importers, majority of which are farmers’ cooperatives.

 However, Maronilla has yet to disclose exactly how many of the rice importers resorted to the legal remedies and how many of those who availed themselves of legal remedies are farmers’ cooperatives. (read story here:

During the hearing, the agriculture committee approved Senate Joint Resolution No. 12, which was introduced by Villar, to use all tariffs in excess of the P10 billion collected from rice imports collected in 2019 and 2020 as direct cash assistance to farmers tilling 1 hectare and below.

Villar said the cash assistance would benefit at least 600,000 rice farmers. Dar said about 1.1 million rice farmers are planting on 1 hectare and less.

Based on Customs preliminary report, the total rice tariff collected from rice imports this year has reached P13.681 billion as of end-September, Villar said. Excess tariffs collected last year reached P2.1 billion.

This means that at least P5.781 billion would be given as cash assistance to the target rice farmers next year. The DA earlier planned to use the P2.1-billion excess rice tariffs from last year to bankroll its crop diversification and expanded crop insurance programs for rice farmers. 


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