Saturday, April 13, 2019

13th April,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Arkansas Field Conditions Reach Saturation Point 
By Emily Woodall

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Approaching mid-April and odds are good that it's another rainy day in Arkansas and planting in the Natural State has come to a standstill. After last year's muddy and harsh harvest, farmers still haven't been able to catch a break as the past three months it's been nothing but rain, sunshine for a few days, then more rain as soon as things have started to dry out.

Jeff Rutledge, a grower from Newport in northeast Arkansas, was able to get most of his corn planted last week and a few acres of rice before another front came through and dropped another two inches of rain on his fields. "The fields are still wet but we're hoping it dries out enough that we can get in the fields again before the next front moves across the state this weekend," said Rutledge. "Typically we'll plant our corn, then rice, then soybeans." He estimates that no more than 20 percent of the state's rice has been planted so far.

The report from grower Dow Brantley, from Lonoke in central Arkansas, is that, 25 percent of his rice is in the ground and the rest of his acres are rutted up from last year's harvest and that will slow future plants a little. "The rest of the acres will need some field prep before we can start planting again," said Brantley. "Altogether, there's probably 10 days' worth of field prep that needs to happen before we can plant. That's 10 days of extra labor and equipment expenses that we don't need right now, but we have to get it done." He figures less than 5 percent of the rice in Lonoke County has been planted to date.
 In southeast Arkansas, Joe Mencer has about 85 percent of his corn planted but less than 3 percent of his rice planted. Of those fields, only 15 percent are prepped, the rest are also rutted up from last year's muddy harvest. Mencer said, "We got a little more than six inches of rain last weekend and besides keeping us out of the fields, we've had to work at unplugging all the drains that are clogged with debris."
 While this season has started off slower and wetter than usual, there's still optimism that the rain will stop long enough to get the crops in and a mild summer will keep the crop on track.

Smuggling as bane of rice sufficiency agenda


Shocking revelations show that over 70 per cent of rice in circulation are still imported or smuggled into the country, with a new report putting it at one million metric tons in the last three months. Taiwo Hassan reports

President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2018 New Year broadcast that rice importation would be stopped at the end of last year in order to pave way for local production appears to have suffered a major setback.
Obviously, smuggling and importation of the commodity have taken a toll on the efforts of local farmers to achieve self-sufficiency in this regard.
Indeed, the country’s porous land borders remain the number one challenge facing the successful implementation of the Federal Government’s rice sufficiency policy as smugglers continue to invade different borders just to smuggle in the commodity and make quick profit.
Also, some officials of the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) have been accused of looking the other way in the course of doing their job, therefore, fuelling influx of smuggled rice into the country.
A three-week survey conducted recently on rice market across the six-geopolitical zones in the country indicated that foreign rice such as Mama Gold, Royal Stallion, Rice Master, Caprice, Falcon Rice and Basmati are sold alongside Nigerian rice such as Umza and Fursa Crown from Kano, Mama Happy from Niger, Labana Rice from Kebbi, Olam Rice from Nasarawa, Abakaliki Rice from Ebonyi, Ofada Rice from Ogun State, Swomen Dama from Plateau, Lake Rice of Lagos/Kebbi States among others.
Ironically, the foreign products are more visible and dominant in the Nigerian markets.
The question is how foreign rice keeps gaining access into Nigerian market in spite of rigorous government’s local rice policy.
Particularly, some agric analysts have concluded that government’s local rice policy embarked upon with visible intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) via the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP) is a failure and waste of resources since reports have it that foreign brands are still finding their ways into the country with ease, whether legally or illegally.
They also emphasised that findings had shown that Nigerians still preferred foreign rice in terms of consumption when compared with the local ones, saying that these are the reasons for increase in rice smuggling and importation.
Survey conducted showed that investors have invested multi-billion naira in local rice value chain, but recouping their investments have been a challenge as many of them complained of lack of patronage by Nigerians.
Blame game
The sudden renewal in rice smuggling across the country’s land borders is currently unsettling the nation’s rice value chain with accusations and counter accusations becoming the order of the day among rice stakeholders, Nigeria Customs Service, CBN and investors over the missing link hindering the successful implementation of the government’s rice policy tailored towards sufficiency in rice production in the country.
Indeed, stakeholders in the rice sub-sector, namely, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN) and Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), all gave kudos to the apex bank for the timely intervention and banning of rice since 2015, a development that has seen growth in local production of rice and serious savings of foreign exchange.
But they, however, laid the blame for the inflow of the banned commodity on the doorsteps of the NCS, saying that customs officials have been frustrating government’s local rice policy since its inception following their inability to fight against smuggling of the commodity and also paid serious attention to the various porous borders in the country.
In fact, the figure released recently by Africa Rice Center on the current state of Nigeria’s rice production was greeted with mixed feelings among key stakeholders in the country’s agric sector especially some members of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) who either doubted or supported the figure alluded to Nigeria.
Ordinarily, the news by the Africa Rice Center on Nigeria now occupying the pole position as the largest producer of rice in the continent ought to be a cheering news for everybody in the country, but the fact remains that the country is yet to attain alleged four million tonnes of rice production target, thereby, putting a snag on the Africa Rice Center’s report.
To buttress that all is not yet well with the country’s rice sector of the economy, RIPAN raised an alarm that over 20 million bags of foreign rice, equivalent of one million metric tons, have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
The Chairman of RIPAN, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Maifata, raised the alarm while briefing the media in Abuja on the latest development in rice smuggling in the country.
Maifata said: “Investors in Nigeria have made enormous financial commitment in the rice sub-sector. Unfortunately, the only threat to the industry’s total development, is smuggling. Over one million metric tons of rice, which is equivalent to about 20,000,000 bags of 50kg, have been smuggled into Nigeria in the last three months.
“Nigeria currently loses huge revenues, foreign exchange and jobs to this menace as Nigeria rice processing companies are shutting down because of their inability to gain market access.
“More painfully, millions of small-holder farmers are stuck with their paddy because the millers can no longer afford to buy from them,” he added.
He said investigations conducted by the association in the last few months indicated that “all our international borders have been converted to smugglers route and our markets are filled with smuggled foreign rice.”
Last line
Sadly, this latest report by RIPAN has further cast doubt on government’s local rice policy in terms of its success and implementation since it has shown that foreign rice is still dominant in many Nigerian markets signaling that there is still much work to be done by government to convince Nigerians and investors about its genuinely local rice policy.

Bark & Bite: The warmth and heat of a Curry Night

By Tony Jackman• 12 April 2019
Mutton Rib Curry with tomato and onion sambal, cucumber raita, and homemade naan. Photo: Louis Pieterse
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There’s much more snap, crackle and pop in the making of a delectable curry than there is in a bowl of Rice Crispies. If you thought it was just a matter of stirring some curry powder into a tomato-based sauce and Balvindra’s your uncle, well, you’ll find your seat at the back of the class.

Whether you start with dry spices toasting in a heavy-bottomed pot or throw the raw seeds into hot oil, you want to hear the crackling and popping before you do anything else. And when you do, that’s when you start building up your curry.
Seeds. It all comes down to seeds. Black mustard seeds. Cumin seeds. Fennel, cardamom and coriander seeds. Or, brassica nigra (black mustard seeds), jeera (cumin), soomph or barishap (fennel), elaichi/elachie (cardamom), and coriander (dhania). And cinnamon and cassia, the first gentler of flavour and better suited to sweet dishes, the second stronger and best for savoury.
The black mustard seeds hold the character of the group, and of the curry they’ll make. Cumin/jeera is the worldly member of the clan, bearing those aspects that the others might wish they could attain, like the well-travelled cousin who’s become enriched by what he’s seen and done. Fennel is the greenhorn, its flavours fresh and eager, but best kept in check by elders. Cardamom, now there’s the one that always brings on a sigh or a swoon. Cardamom is sensuous and amoral, its charms impossible to resist. But coriander seeds are the cheerleader of the pack, seamlessly bringing the flavours of all the other spices together. One sharp look from coriander and cardamom is back in line.
But it’s not only about the seeds. There’s the bark too (along with the bite), and the mother-in-law of the pack, the masala. We buy ours on any trip to Durban or environs, and keep it well sealed in a dark cupboard. No matter how many other spices you use, you still need your masala. And I’d always trust an Indian spice merchant/mixer ahead of anyone else. And let’s not forget the divine star anise, the Queen of the Spice Cupboard. Or in my case, the spice box.
Finally, the leaves – the curry leaf and bay leaf, and finally, when time and patience and a little finesse have turned your curry and all it contains into a delectable feast, the dhania comes back, but this time in leaf form, sprinkled on top of the dish, chopped or whole. (I like to stir some chopped coriander leaves into the curry right at the last minute, before serving, and sprinkle more on top.) Nowhere in all of the above have we yet mentioned the chilli, ginger or garlic. This trio is the guard of honour without which everything will remain a tad unwieldy and not quite right. The fire of the chilli is the central force in a curry, its centrifuge if you like, but it only works in concert with everything that swirls around it. The garlic and ginger conspire, like brothers who are inseparable but nevertheless different, to be the platform on which all of the other magic happens in the curry pot. Not being one to follow the stern intransigence of a precise recipe if I can somehow muddle on without one, my curries have developed over the years in the way of a story that’s been brewing in your mind through the days of your life, and when you finally put pen to paper, it comes out in a way that you can’t overly control and yet which may surprise you. I start with dry spices, these days, although I used to first braise spices in ghee or cooking oil (sunflower, canola, it matters not). And I always have a tub of ghee in the fridge. Ghee is clarified butter which you can buy at any decent Indian spice shop. I have a tub now which weighs 1.5kg and cost me R180. That’s a price, but it lasts and lasts and lasts and will see you through countless curries and convivial nights with the best of very happy friends. There’s nothing like a curry night to bring out the very best in us; telling rich tales and throwing your head right back with laughter and good Indian vibes.
But we’ve left some key ingredients behind, so let’s backtrack and catch up. There’s liquid too:
Tomato. And water. For a sizeable curry (let’s say I’m feeding eight people) I’ll add two standard tins of chopped tomatoes, 50g or so of tomato paste/puree, and the equivalent amount of water. In other words, empty the two tins of chopped tomatoes into the pot, then fill the cans up and pour that in too. Finally, the debate some people like to have about salt. As in, do you salt a curry or not? With all those spices, do you really need salt? A good Indian cook will open their eyes in shock at the question. Of course you salt a curry! Salt lifts anything and everything it is added to, and yes, that includes a curry, no matter how many spices have gone into it. I’m going to write my mutton curry recipe down below (using mutton rib, but knuckles or neck will do just as well, or even cubed leg if you will), but first, there’s the rice and the naan. The latter being my newest new trick, thanks to friends who’ve shown me how.
The Basmati Rice
Rice. There are many ways to make that. Most of them too time-consuming for my taste. I follow John Torode’s method, which he says he got from watching Chinese chefs make rice in Chinese restaurants in his younger days. You need a pot with a super-tight fitting lid. Some tin foil. Rice, which you’ve washed four or more times in cold water, and drained. Then, with the wet rice in a pot, place the tip of your index finger on the top of the rice, and trickle in cold water until it reaches the first joint in your finger. Now stop pouring. Stir the rice with your (clean) finger. Put it on the heat, uncovered. Bring it to a rigorous boil. Put the lid on tightly with a sheet of tin foil between it and the pot. Now turn off the heat and go away. The rice will cook to perfection while you make the naan bread, set the table and feed the cats. If, as may happen on occasion, there is still some residual water at the bottom of the rice, finish it over a low heat until the last of the water has been absorbed/evaporated. The joy of this method is that the rice grains will be separate.
The Naan
Homemade naan, made with guidance from photographer Louis Pieterse, who too the other photos but not this one.

1.5 cups warm water (not hot)
1 Tbs sugar 6g wet yeast or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast 1 teaspoon salt 3 cups stoneground white bread flour Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a bowl and leave for five minutes until it foams. Add flour and salt, mix and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead well and form it into a ball. Oil a bowl lightly, put the dough in and cover with a damp towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes. Turn on to a floured surface, divide into small pieces (you’ll have to judge the amount that will make one naan, given that it is rolled thinly – a few tries will give you the hang of it). Roll each clump – aiming to get a teardrop shape – to a thickness of about 0.3cm. Make some garlic butter: melt butter, add finely chopped garlic, stir until the garlic is lightly browned and nutty. Finely chop some coriander leaves.
Now, if you have a tandoor you will of course slap it onto the inner wall of the hot Indian oven. Or you could grill them on a lightly oil oven pan in a hot oven. But let’s save you the trouble of that. Just use a heavy frying pan, lightly oiled, over the highest heat. They cook very quickly, a minute or two on each side. Watch as they cook for bubbles to form, then lift the edge to peek underneath. You’re looking for – on the cooked side – the craters formed by those bubbles. Flip and cook the second side. Remove and drench with the garlic butter, sprinkle chopped coriander on top, and Balvindra is indeed your uncle. Much earlier in the day, however, you will have made this:
Mutton Rib Curry
Mutton Rib Curry with tomato and onion sambal, cucumber raita, and homemade naan. Photo: Louis Pieterse

2kg mutton rib pieces
Oil or ghee 1 scant Tbs cumin seeds 1 scant Tbs black mustard seeds 1 scant Tbs fennel seeds 1 tsp elachie (cardamom) seeds 1 star anise I large onion, chopped finely 2 or 3 fat cloves of garlic 2 cm piece of very fresh ginger, peeled and minced (a grater will suffice)
2 bay leaves
1 stick cassia or cinnamon bark 1 to 3 chillies 2 tins tomatoes 2 tins cold water (the same tins) 2 heaped Tbs masala Salt to taste but be generous, curry needs it
Dried or fresh curry leaves
Fresh dhania leaves, chopped Choose either the wet or dry method. If wet, heat some oil or ghee and throw in all the seeds. Wait for them to start snap-crackle-popping, and add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger, and cook them quickly, until softened, while stirring. If the dry method: add all the seeds, cinnamon or cassia, star anise and bay leaves to a hot dry pan over a moderate heat and listen for the seeds to pop. You’ll see the mustard seeds starting to bounce around. As soon as a little smoke starts to emit, remove the star anise (I find it too hard to grind) and remove other spices to a blender and grind very finely. Heat ghee or oil and add the onion, garlic and ginger, and stir until softened, adding the ground spices once the onions are translucent, then stir for a minute or so. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon or cassia and add the star anise you took out earlier. Pour in the two tins of tomato, fill the cans up with cold water and add. Stir in the masala. Add the mutton. Stir and salt to taste – carefully now. (You can always adjust the salting later, once the flavours have developed.)
Regarding chillies: For hotter, slice them and include the seeds; for milder, remove the seeds and only use the flesh. Or, pop them in whole and remove them (along with the bark and bay eaves) before serving, so that the curry gets the heat but not quite so much. Add them at the bay, cinnamon and tomato stage.
Simmer, covered, for at least three hours, I’d go for four. Pop back to the kitchen to stir every now and then; it does catch. If you’re adding curry leaves, do so half an hour or so before it’s done. Just before serving, stir in some chopped coriander leaves, if you like.
Once the table is set and you’ve downloaded a sitar play list, lowered the lights and lit the incense and the many candles, and all of that combined with the aromas coming from the kitchen has got everyone chilled and mellow, quickly roll out and cook the naan, drench them with the garlicky butter and sprinkle them with chopped coriander, pile them on a platter and take them through, to be followed in quick succession by the steaming (lid off) pot of curry.
There’s a little bit of heaven, right there. DM

Stallion eyes 1.5m paddy rice

Description: StallionThe National Programme Manager of Popular Farms and Mills Limited, a division of Stallion group of Companies in Kano State Alhaji suleiman Umar yesterday, said the company is targeting the processing of 1.50 million tons of paddy rice yearly in Nigeria.
Umar spoke in Kano at the foundation laying ceremony for rice mill expansion and Sesame Processing Unit on which the company has invested about N8billion.
According to him, the company  has an installed milling capacity of 430,000 metric tons per year, and projected a capacity 44,000 tons.He added that Popular Farms and Mills is a key stakeholder in the country’s growth, with commercial interest in the food sector, especially rice and other food products.
“Our plan is to spearhead and lead the Nigerian rice revolution and self sufficiency in rice production in the country.
“We are achieving this through free technical and business skills training to rice outgrowere and cooperatives, as well as empowering women and youths in the rice value chain.

Egypt heading towards security in rice

Mona El-Fiqi discovers the rationale behind the government’s decision to increase the amount of land growing rice

Mona El-Fiqi , Friday 12 Apr 2019
Description: Rice
Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ezzeddin Abu Steit recently announced that an increase of 50 per cent would be allowed in the land allocated for rice cultivation this season. 1,074000 feddans will be cultivated with rice this year instead of 724,000 feddans last year, he said (one feddan is 1.038 acres).
The decision aimed to increase production and reduce the country’s imports bill in order to save foreign currency, he said. A ministerial plan is currently being applied targeting the increased productivity of agricultural land by promoting new kinds of high-quality rice with low water consumption.
Abu Steit said that according to Ministerial Decree 65/2019, the area of land available for rice cultivation this year would be divided into three.
The first 724,000 feddans will be irrigated by Nile water, while the second 200,000 feddans will be cultivated with new kinds of rice able to tolerate less water.
A third area of 150,000 feddans will be irrigated with recycled water. The rice cultivation season runs from May to September.
Ragab Shehata, head of the Rice Division at the Federation of Egyptian Industries, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the decision was a positive one and a step towards achieving a balance between rice production and consumption.
The area allocated for rice cultivation has been a controversial issue over the past few years. The government has said that owing to water shortages a reduction in rice production has been required. However, there have been concerns that rice shortages in local markets as a result could lead to the increase in price of an important food staple.
In 2017, Egypt’s rice production stood at four million tons, while local consumption was three million tons. Egypt exported the one million tons of rice that exceeded consumption.
However, experts say that exporting rice is like exporting water because it is a crop that requires a great deal of water at a time when Egypt faces an annual water deficit of around seven billion cubic metres, according to the UN.
To rationalise water consumption and balance the production and consumption of rice, the government decided in 2018 to reduce the area available for rice cultivation from 1.7 million to 724,000 feddans.
The Ministry of Agriculture has started to apply strict regulations on growing rice. Farmers are no longer able to cultivate rice unless their land is located in an area designated by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Rice cultivation is allowed in the Delta governorates but is prohibited in Upper Egypt, South Sinai, Marsa Matrouh, Qalioubiya, Menoufiya, Cairo and Giza.
Farmers who violate the rules are subject to penalties under Law 12/1984. Mohamed Abdel-Kader, a farmer who lives in Meet Ghamr in the Daqahliya governorate, cultivated rice although it was forbidden in his area and he had to pay a fine as a result.
Abdel-Kader said that this year the fines had doubled, so the farmers in his village had decided to stop growing rice.
Due to the government’s decision to cut rice cultivation, production decreased to 2.6 million tons while consumption remained at three million tons in 2018. The gap between consumption and production was covered by increasing imports of rice.
However, rice prices also increased. A ton of rice sold at LE6,000 at the beginning of 2018 has now surged to LE8,000, according to Abdel-Kader.
Ali Abdel-Rahman, head of the International Union for the Environment and Development, said it was the government’s fault that prices had jumped. It was now spending foreign currency importing rice that was lower in quality than the local produce and did not suit Egyptian tastes, he said.
 “The government announced that the aim of cutting rice production last year was to rationalise the use of Nile water, yet 80 per cent of rice cultivation depends on salt water from the Mediterranean Sea or reused agricultural water,” Abdel-Rahman said.
He doubted whether an increase in rice production would help reduce prices because traders would not permit the prices to drop, stockpiling rice at the first signs of trouble, he said.
Shehata said that rice was currently available at between LE8 and LE10 for an unpacked kg. Imported rice from India, China and Russia, in addition to around 500,000 tons of surplus from the previous season, had helped to stabilise prices, he said.
However, Mohamed Ismail, the owner of a supermarket in New Cairo, said that rice prices varied from LE14 to LE20 per packed kg. During the past six months, sales of rice had been down by 50 per cent due to increases in prices, he said.
Most consumers preferred to buy unpacked rice at LE11 per kg or eat pasta and bread instead, Ismail said.
Shehata explained that prices could differ according to a district’s standard of living and that some well-known brands sold rice at higher prices. Consumers were free to select products according to their needs, he said.
The Daqahliya, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Beheira and Gharbiya governorates have the largest areas given over to rice. The highest rice production over the past 10 years was in 2008, when it reached 7.3 million tons
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Towards security in rice

Cambodia to sue EU over rice tariff

Description: image (Source: AFP)

Hanoi (VNA) – Cambodia has announced that it will file a lawsuit against the EU to the European court after Brussels applied high tariffs on rice exported from the Southeast Asian country.

The move comes after the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced in January that it will impose duties on Indica rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar for three years.

The EU had complained of a significant increase in Indica rice imports over the last five years, which had punished European producers, especially in Italy.

The market share of EU producers fell over this period from 61 percent to 29 percent, the commission said.

According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce, the EC’s announcement that imports of Indica rice from the two countries had risen by 89 percent in the past five rice-growing seasons was based on wrongful information and would affect farmers in one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.

Indica rice from the two countries is subject to a duty of 175 EUR (197.25 USD) per tonne in the first year, dropping to 150 EUR in the second and 125 EUR in the third year.

A statement from the Cambodian Rice Federation said that the defensive measures are fundamentally misguided and a misapplication of EU law.

The reintroduction of import duties is detrimental to the Cambodian economy and its industry, but above all to its people, it said.

Up until January, Cambodia and Myanmar had fully benefited from the Everything But Arms initiative, which allows developing countries to export their products to the EU with zero duties.–VNA 
Farmers decry exclusion from rice fund committee
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - April 13, 2019 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines —  Local farmers condemned yesterday the exclusion of their representatives from the Program Steering Committee (PSC) of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) complained about the sudden disappearance of this provision in the recently finalized implementing rules and regulations of the rice tariffication law.
FFF national manager Raul Montemayor said the inclusion of farmer representatives in the PSC was incorporated in the original draft of the IRR, and nobody raised any objections to the proposal during the series of public consultations.
The RCEF, which amounts to P10 billion per year for the next six years, is intended to help rice farmers cope with the liberalization of the rice market following the enactment of the law.
The PSC is supposed to “oversee and provide policy directions on the implementation of the programs funded by the fund, in accordance with the Philippine Industry Road Map.”
“The proposal to include farmer representatives in the PSC was intended to avoid a repeat of the experience with the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund where huge blocks of funds were cornered by relatively large business enterprises,” Montemayor said.
Local farmer representatives should be part of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), a network of national, regional, provincial and municipal agriculture and fishery councils where private stakeholders regularly dialogue and interact with the DA and other government agencies in the monitoring and evaluation of programs for farmers.
Montemayor said the PCAF, which operates under the DA structure, would have been the ideal vehicle for farmers to consolidate and relay their feedback on RCEF implementation to the steering committee.
“I simply cannot understand why the government does not want farmers in the PSC when we could contribute so much to the proper implementation of the RCEF. Farmers are not only beneficiaries of the fund, but should also be recognized as valuable partners of government in achieving food security and agricultural development,” he added.
Further, Montemayor questioned the absence of clear provisions in the IRR which would ensure that rice farmers would have continued access to the P1 billion annual allocation for credit under the RCEF.
“It now seems clear that the public consultations on the IRR were a mere charade and farmers were just taken for a ride. Government officials made a lot of promises and assurances, but in the end, nothing clear and definite came out in the implementing rules,” he said.

What's inside the IRR of the Rice Tariffication law?

Does the IRR contain the safeguards that rice industry stakeholders are asking from government?
Published 7:17 PM, April 12, 2019
Updated 7:22 PM, April 12, 2019
Description: LAST STEP The Department of Agriculture has finally signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Rice Tariffication law. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler
LAST STEP The Department of Agriculture has finally signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Rice Tariffication law. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The signing of the Rice Tariffication law was only half the battle won.
While industry stakeholders failed to persuade President Rodrigo Duterte to veto certain provisions before signing the law, various groups had to settle for the next best thing: imposing safeguards in the law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
Before the Department of Agriculture (DA) gave its stamp of approval to the IRR, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said they took the rice industry stakeholders'requests into consideration:
  • For farmers who worry there will be no trader to buy their crops, the National Food Authority will be using a "rolling buffer stock" – releasing the rice bought from the farmers to the market and buying fresh palay, or unhusked rice, from the farmers again.
  • For the National Food Authority employees who will lose their jobs due to the loss of the agency's regulatory function: Some employees will be moved to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), as this agency will now be tasked to issue sanitary and phytosanitary permits to anyone who will want to import rice.
  • Easier access to the rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF): farmers can also avail of the P1-billion credit facility, farm equipment, and rice seeds for free. The interest rate for the loan facility will also be one-third only of the prevailing rates set by the Central Bank.
Does the promise hold true for farmers?
Last week, Piñol finally signed the IRR. The DA was the last among concerned agencies to approve the IRR, which should also contain the safeguards the department promised to industry stakeholders.
Under the provisions changing the NFA's new role, there was no mention of a rolling buffer stock. The NFA was only told to make sure that its buffer stock is at an "optimal level." The buffer stock should also factor in needs for emergency situations and government's disaster relief operations.
The IRR also says the NFA will retain buffer stock that can last for only 15 days at any given time and specifies 30 days’ worth of buffer stock during lean months.
"Simply because it's not mentioned there, specifically the rolling buffer stocking, we can always come up with strategies on how to do it," Piñol told Rappler in a mix of English and Filipino on Wednesday, April 10.
"What is basic there is that number one, the NFA is allowed to buy palay, number two, it is allowed to dispose of its stocks as they age, so it's natural, we can come up with whatever name we like to call it," he added.
Restructuring the NFA
Now tasked to only maintain buffer stock, the NFA will still continue to survey commercial rice stock up until December 2019. By July 1, 2020, the stock survey should be transferred to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The NFA will be given 60 days upon the effectivity of the IRR to restructure. But the agency only has 30 days to submit its restructuring or reorganization plan to the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations.
Aside from crafting a new corporate structure and recommending compensation packages for affected employees, the NFA will also have to plan for new roles for employees who will be transferred to another position.
The NFA and the DA will also have up to 15 days upon the effectivity of the IRR to modify and transfer the Food Development Center – a department in charge of providing scientific support on food safety – to the DA.
Piñol said that drafting the new corporate structure and transfer of duties will be dealt with after the Holy Week, putting the fate of NFA employees who could still remain in government service on hold as well.
Imports regulated?
The IRR clarifies that aside from issuing sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSIC), the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) will also keep track of incoming rice and put out on their website a list of accredited importers, along with the volume of rice they will import.
Only traders who are part of the DA Trade System can apply for the SPSIC.
The IRR also says that the imported rice should arrive in the country before the SPSIC expires, but is silent on what happens if the rice imports are delayed.
With its new function, the BPI will have to open up new positions but the creation of these new roles “shall be at the barest minimum,” according to the IRR.
It does not say if the NFA employees who will lose their jobs will be moved to these new positions, but Piñol previously gave assurances that they will be seconded to the BPI to help with the issuances of the SPSIC.
Promoting productivity
Complementing the RCEF, the IRR also mandates that a new rice roadmap will be crafted within 180 days, which means that it would have to be implemented on or before September 5, 2018.
The DA will be leading agencies concerned, such as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Finance, and the Department of Budget and Management, to formulate and adopt a new rice roadmap based on the following principles:
  • Sustainable investments, particularly on rice support infrastructure and post-harvest facilities
  • Improve productivity, efficiency, and profitability of small rice farmers and landless farmworkers
  • Strengthen research and development programs
  • Preserve and enhance rice production capabilities
  • Provide accessible, targeted, and technology-oriented support services that cover the entire value chain
  • Set up responsible, participatory and effective governance mechanisms
  • Address impact of income loss due to rice tariffication
"This will be implemented through a complementation of DA’s rice sector programs which are funded by the GAA (General Appropriations Act) and the RCEF," says the IRR.
What if there's too much or too little rice?
The IRR says the President will be given the power to intervene, upon the recommendation of the NEDA Board and the NFA Council.
Article VI of the IRR says that the President can "adjust existing rates of import duty up to the bound rate committed by the Philippines under the WTO (World Trade Organization) Agreement on Agriculture and under the ATIGA (ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement)."
Under the ATIGA, any rice import from ASEAN countries would only be slapped with a 35% tariff. As for non-ASEAN countries, the tariff would be placed at 40% so long as imports do not exceed 350,000 metric tons under the minimum access volume (MAV) or the quantitative limit of a product which can enter a country at a lower tariff.
Going above the MAV would increase the tariff further to 180%.
Imposing lower tariffs can only take effect for up to 90 days, or until the rice shortage has been fixed.
The President, however, can only intervene if Congress is not in session. The adjusted tariff rates will also only take effect 15 days after publication–