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Monday, June 24, 2024

NEDA defends rice tariff cut, commits to food security

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The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Monday defended the reduction in rice tariffs, saying the move aims to balance affordability for consumers with support for domestic rice production.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the board’s decision targets ensuring Filipinos’ access to “nutritious and affordable food, particularly rice,” while managing inflation and economic growth.

“Rice contributed about two percentage points to inflation in the past three months,” Balisacan said in a statement. “Reducing rice tariffs is expected to bring down prices for consumers while supporting domestic production through continued tariffs and increased budgetary support to improve farm productivity, especially as global rice prices remain high.”

The statement comes amid calls from some farmers’ groups for Balisacan’s resignation over the tariff reduction.

Balisacan acknowledged “concerns raised by our farmers” and assured the public “this decision was not made lightly.” He said the NEDA board, chaired by the president and composed of Cabinet members, unanimously approved a recommendation from the Committee on Tariff and Related Matters for a new Comprehensive Tariff Program for 2024-2028.

“The board, as a collegial body, recognized the strategic importance of ensuring access and affordability of essential commodities while balancing the interests of consumers, local producers, and the economy,” Balisacan said. “This is crucial for fostering rapid, sustained, and inclusive economic growth.”

He said the Tariff Commission conducted “extensive consultations and reviews” before making recommendations, as mandated by law. These consultations included public hearings where stakeholders could voice their opinions.

While acknowledging farmer concerns, Balisacan emphasized the government’s commitment to supporting them. This includes investments in infrastructure, technology adoption, market access, and climate-change resilience initiatives.

“The Marcos administration has prioritized agricultural development,” Balisacan said, citing a 69-percent increase in the Department of Agriculture’s budget from 2022 to 2024 compared to its average allocation for 2017-2021.

“We are mindful of the need to manage inflation and ensure affordability for all Filipinos,” he said. “High food prices disproportionately affect the poor and contribute to hunger, malnutrition, and stunting, hindering development goals.”

Balisacan reiterated NEDA’s commitment to food security and strengthening the agriculture sector, pledging continued engagement with all stakeholders, including farmers.


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