The Philippines’ Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) will implement stricter measures on rice imports to ensure that only safe, quality, crop pest-free rice are sold in domestic markets.

“All rice importers will have to comply with the guidelines as required in securing the Sanitary Phyto-Sanitary Import Clearance or SPSIC,” said agriculture secretary William Dar on Thursday.

In a press conference, he said the DA-BPI will also conduct pre-inspection at the point of origin of imported stock to ensure quality and safe rice for consumers, as well as protect farmers from possible introduction and spread of crop pests and diseases.

“We are abiding by the intentions and directives of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to bring down the price of rice at affordable levels, and provide rice farmers much-needed support to make them efficient and cost-productive so they can ably compete with their counterparts in ASEAN and other Asian countries,” Dar said.

President Duterte issued the directives during a meeting last night with executive secretary Salvador Midealdea, finance secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, and secretary Dar.

The President also ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase the country’s emergency buffer stock from 15 to 30 days by buying more palay from farmers. Further, he instructed Dar that the NFA must accelerate the turnover of its inventory by buying more palay, and selling more regular milled rice at an average of 20,000 bags (50 kg) or more per day.

Second, the unconditional cash transfer for small farmers affected by low palay prices will be extended from one to two years, with a budget of P3 billion per year. This will benefit 600,000 farmers, tilling one-half to two hectares of rice land.

Meanwhile, Dar said the DA-BPI has to date issued some 3,000 SPSICs, of which about 70 percent (equivalent to 1.7 million metric tons of rice) had already been used.

He told the DA-BPI not to entertain holders of unused SPSICs, and they will be asked why they have not yet consummated their import clearance and brought in the imported stock. ###