BOC tariff take from rice imports rises 58% in January

The Bureau of Customs office in Manila

THE government’s tariff collections from rice imports in January expanded by 58 percent to P2.04 billion from P1.29 billion last year, a feat that the Customs bureau attributed to improvements in its import valuation system.

Citing preliminary data, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said the volume of rice imports in January increased by 29 percent to 287,957 metric tons (MT) from 223,278 MT recorded in the same period of last year.

Based on the BOC’s electronic-to-mobile (e2M) system, Guerrero said data also show that year-on-year, the average valuation of rice imports improved by 11.5 percent in January.

Guerrero added that the average value of rice imports in January increased to P20,262 per MT from P18,177 per MT in January 2020.

“Improvements made by the BOC  to help ensure the proper classification, quantity and weight of rice stocks brought into the country under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) led to the increase in the average value of imported rice, which, in turn, meant higher revenues for the government from the duties collected from these imports,” he said.

More to be done

Some industry groups remain skeptical, however, on whether there were indeed improvements in the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) system that could have curbed undervaluation of shipments.

Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said the statement of the BOC is “good news” but the increase in the rice tariff collections “does not mean that undervaluation has been mitigated.”

Montemayor thinks that the increase in rice tariff collections could be mainly attributed to the increase in volume and increase in global rice prices.

Montemayor noted that the export prices of rice from Vietnam and Thailand have breached the $500-per-MT level at the start of the year due to supply concerns in these countries.

Montemayor said they will review the BOC’s figures to determine if indeed the increase in tariff collections was attributable to changes the bureau has made in its valuation system.

An analysis made by the BusinessMirror on rice import entries as published by the BOC in its website showed a discrepancy between the bureau’s reference price for rice, prevailing market price and the declared value of shipments by rice importers.

For example, the average import cost of White Rice 5 percent broken from Vietnam (Tariff line: 1006.4090)  in January was at $413.25 MT or about P19,857.13 per MT, based on BusinessMirror’s analysis.

The figure was 18.21 percent lower than the BOC’s average reference price for the same commodity and tariff line which was at $0.50525 per kilogram or $505.25 per MT, based on the bureau’s documents published online.

The average import figure was also lower than the average $505 per MT price for Vietnam’s 5 percent broken rice in January as monitored by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The FAO’s data sources included livericeindex.com, where the BOC based its reference prices, and viettraders.com.

Montemayor also conducted a quick analysis of the BOC figures and concurred with the computations of this newspaper.

“It only means that undervaluation is still ongoing despite the claims of the BOC. Undervaluation is still rampant,” he said.

Image credits: Klodien | Dreamstime.com


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