The government has issued a total of 1,518 import permits to traders that sought its permission to import rice following the effectivity of the rice trade liberalization law in March, data released by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) showed.
Figures from the agency indicated that 190 cooperatives, traders and institutions applied for sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPS-IC) from March 5 to June 30 for the purchase of 1.478 million metric tons (MMT) of imported rice.
The BPI was mandated to facilitate private-sector importation by issuing SPS-ICs once the rice trade liberalization law took effect on March 5.
Under the new trade regime, private entities must secure an SPS-IC from the BPI, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), prior to bringing imported rice into the country.
Republic Act (RA) 11203 deregulated the National Food Authority (NFA), which used to issue import licenses to qualified traders.
The agency’s records indicated that among the applicants, Indian grocery store Assad Mini Mart accounted for the biggest volume at 59,500 metric tons.
Puregold Price Club Inc., the grocery-chain operator owned by businessman Lucio Co, was among the top 5 import applicants with a volume of 37,435 MT.
BPI data indicated that importers would buy rice from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Italy, Myanmar and Spain.
More than half of the rice importers are cooperatives, while about 65 applicants are companies and millers.
A total of 150 eligible importers used 755 SPS-ICs and brought in 707,909.503 MT of rice as of end-June. The imports were sourced from Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam.
BPI’s end-June import arrival figures are less than half of the 1.43 MMT declared by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) under the new trade regime.
During the four-month period, Arvin International Marketing Inc. accounted for the bulk of arrivals at 25,268 MT. It used 29 out of its 57 SPS-ICs.
Under RA 11203, the BPI is mandated to act on every application within seven days. Failure to do so would mean automatic approval of the application.
Tariff collection doubted
The BOC earlier announced that it has collected P5.9 billion in tariffs from 1.43 MMT of imported rice that entered the country’s ports from March 5 to June 30.
However, the amount collected by the BOC is being disputed by some rice industry groups due to possible undervaluation by traders and importers.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a report that the country’s rice imports this year will rise by 20 percent to a record high of 3 MMT, making the Philippines one of the world’s top buyers of the staple.
The USDA said purchases of imported rice rose after the government removed the quantitative restriction on rice with the implementation of RA 11203.