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Hybrid producers ask gov’t to exempt rice seeds from tariff

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By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Domestic hybrid rice producers like SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC) asked the government not to impose tariff on imported rice seeds as part of the liberalization of rice importation in the country.

This, according to them, could result to increase in the cost of hybrid rice in the Philippines.

SLAC Technical Advisor Frisco Malabanan said that with the Rice Tariffication Bill, which seeks to replace the quantitative restriction on rice imports with tariff, the tariff on imported hybrid rice seeds could also go up from zero to 35 to 50 percent.

Hybrid rice, a type of rice that has been bred from two very different parents, can significantly outyield other rice varieties, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said.

Using hybrid rice seeds, farmers’ harvest could go up to 8 metric tons (MT) per hectare, higher than the 4 MT per hectare national average yield per hectare using the traditional inbred seeds.

Right now, SLAC, the country’s largest hybrid rice producer, currently imports half of its hybrid rice seeds needs, while it produces half of it.

“In terms of seeds, the [Rice Tariffication Bill] will also have an impact on farmers, especially on hybrid, which we can’t solely produce here in the Philippines because we don’t have compact area for it,” Malabanan told reporters.

He also pointed out that hybrid rice production is not covered in the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), the tariff that will be collected from rice imports once the Rice Tariffication Law is either signed by President Rodrigo Duterte or lapsed into law.

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