The Department of Agriculture (DA) must “blacklist” rice importers who are not using their approved sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs), the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) said over the weekend.
“Those importers given permits but cannot deliver [to import]should be blacklisted and charged for holding the country at bay [mag i-import lang sila when convenient],” Sinag Executive Director Jayson Cainglet said in a statement.
“To import is a privilege; it is not a license for impunity and [to] further destroy the agriculture sector.”
The umbrella agriculture group said rice importers have been on a “wait-and-see” mode given the global rice situation.
The global market saw rice prices spike this year on the back of India’s export ban on its rice shipments worsened by volatile market conditions.
“DA [Department of Agriculture] Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. is weighing all options available at his disposal,” the group said.
“That is, if the private sector are [still] willing to import [wait-and-see for the importers given the global rice situation at the moment] or if the government now needs to intervene.”
The group issued the statement almost a week after Laurel warned rice traders that their SPSICs will be canceled if they will not be able to bring in the approved import volume within 30 days.
In a House Committee on Agriculture and Food hearing last week, Laurel disclosed that there are about 1 million metric tons (MMT) of rice covered by valid SPSICs. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/11/21/da-importers-lose-spsic-if-rice-not-here-in-30-days/).
“I said if they will not import those within 30 days, if they will not give a [purchase order], I will cancel all the [SPSICs] because I do not want to be held hostage by permits that were issued to them upon their request,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Laurel’s decision was backed by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), which argued that shortening the deadline for the arrival of rice imports could deter price manipulation. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/11/24/da-chiefs-30-day-ultimatum-on-rice-imports-supported/)
The BusinessMirror reported earlier that the country’s rice imports is close to touching the 3-MMT mark as the state approved the entry of over 1 MMT of foreign supply via private traders and importers in the coming months. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/11/23/with-1-mmt-more-approved-phl-rice-imports-near-3-mmt/)