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DA extends validity of sanitary permit for imported staple

Following a dialogue with stakeholders, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has extended the validity of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPS-IC) for rice imports to ensure shipments would arrive in the country.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar issued Memorandum Circular (MC) 43 which amended his earlier MCs on import rules for rice, corn and wheat.

Under MC 43, rice, wheat and corn shipments from Asean countries except Myanmar should arrive in the country no later than 60 days from the issuance of the SPS-IC. Importers are given a 90-day deadline to bring in these commodities in the country if these come from Myanmar and other non-Asean countries.

“After consultation with concerned stakeholders as directed in MC 38, the stakeholders suggested some adjustments in the days the SPS-IC must be used after issuance to accommodate possible delays in processing shipment by foreign suppliers,” Dar said in MC 43.

“The Department of Agriculture continues to appeal to importers’ nationalistic sense to ensure the fair and equitable price of local rice by avoiding arrivals of imports during peak harvest periods.”

The agriculture chief noted that there is a “need to ensure enough supply and buffer stock to ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of safe rice” while recognizing that “most of the traders and millers” are cooperating with the DA “to ensure both the well-being of local farmers and producers and national food security.”

Earlier, the DA shortened the validity of SPS-ICs for rice imports so that shipments would “arrive when needed” and would not “depress local production prices.”

In his MC 38, which seeks to strengthen current import guidelines for plant products against unscrupulous practices and protect domestic farmers, Dar said the amendments to existing import rules aim to prevent unscrupulous traders from “misusing and abusing” SPS-ICs to “avoid their legal responsibilities.”

The circular slashed in particular the validity of SPS-ICs for rice imports to 20 days from 60 days.

Based on the MC, rice imports must be shipped out within 20 days and must arrive not later than 35 days from the SPS-IC issuance date for rice coming from Asean countries except Myanmar. Rice shipments from Myanmar and other non-Asean countries must arrive within 65 days of the issuance of the SPS-IC, according to the circular.

“There is a need to ensure that imports should arrive when needed and not be used to depress local production prices. Hence, importers should take cognizance of local supply availability and avoid dumping of imports during local harvest periods to benefit our local farmers,” Dar said in the MC 38.

Dar ordered the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), which oversees the importation of plant products, to conduct a dialogue with concerned stakeholders to “refine” the new requirements under MC 38.

“BPI shall also conduct dialogues with both importers and local producers to assess local supply and demand appropriately,” Dar said.

Citing industry sources, a Global Agricultural Information Network (Gain) report noted that MC 38 is “likely to restrict rice trade.”

The Gain report, which was prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service in Manila, has revised downward its rice import forecast for the Philippines for market year (MY) 2020-2021. A rice market year starts from July and ends in June of next year.

“Post lowers MY2020/21 rice imports from 2.6 MMT to 2.3 MMT [million metric tons] due to lower SPS Import Clearances issued to date. The Bureau of Plant Industry [BPI] issued 678 SPS-ICs from July to October in 2020 for 490,441 MT, down 53 percent from the 1,187,015 MT representing 1,462 SPS-ICs issued during the same period in 2019,” the report read.

“Moreover, the volume of reported rice shipments arriving in the Philippines from July to October of MY20/21 is 500,097 MT [metric tons], 40 percent lower than the same period last year.”

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