Duterte stops rice importation; fires Palace official
President Duterte stopped the additional importation of rice from Vietnam so as not to disadvantage Filipino farmers even as he fired Office of the President Undersecretary Halmen Valdez for pushing for importation, contrary to the decision of National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Jason Aquino.
Duterte told farmers during the Grand Harvest Festival in Nueva Ecija he wanted to protect Filipino farmers despite the open market. He said importation should not be done during peak harvest.
“Ano’ng mukha ko na iharap ko sa farmers? Why would we allow importation to compete with local products?’ Hanggang ngayon, hindi ko mabasa ano’ng ginawa nilang rason. Of course, hindi natuloy dahil binara ko.
Subsequently, sabi ko, stop… Open market na tayo, pero you know, you have to protect the Filipino,” he said.
Agriculture officials and farmer-leaders said there was no need for additional importations due to the expected bumper harvest.
Additional importation could compete with local production and result in the drop of prices.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said latest data provided by the Philippine Rice Information System based on satellite and ground assessment and validation showed that the average rice yield in the first quarter of 2017 is at 4.15-metric tons per hectare, a huge jump from the previous average of only 3.9-metric tons.
Piñol said this means an increase in the average yield per hectare of 250 kilos of paddy rice which, if factored in the estimated 4-million hectares planted to rice every year would mean an additional 1-million metric tons of paddy rice or 650,000-metric tons of milled rice.
The estimated annual rice shortage of the Philippines is placed at 1.8-million metric tons.
Piñol said Duterte dismissed Valdez for recommending continued importation of rice from Vietnam – against the position taken by NFA administrator Aquino.
Duterte said in his speech that while there is open trade in the face of Asean Integration, he will ensure that Filipino farmers are protected from unwarranted competition through the manipulation of vested interests who intend to profit from continued importation.