‘Customs Bureau should check underestimated rice imports’

The Free Farmers Federation (FFF) is urging the government to look into the underestimation of rice imports, which led to lost tariffs of up to 7.7 billion pesos in 2022.

Citing Bureau of Customs (BOC) figures, FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor said the country imported 3.85 million metric tons (MMT) of rice last year, the highest since the Rice Tariff Law (RTL) was passed in 2019. year.

Montemayor said over the weekend that the value of rice shipments declared by importers in 2022 is on average 28 percent below BOC reference prices.

“The cost of shipping was declared as 16.94 pesos per kilogram in 2022. They should have averaged around £23.62 based on BOC rates. If we apply a 35 percent tariff to these declared values, the importers are effectively missing BOC by 2.34 pesos for every kilogram they brought into the country,” the statement said.

The FFF stated that the rate of undervaluation had “constantly worsened” over the years, despite repeated assurances from the BOC that it would reduce the practice.

In 2019, the group said the average undervaluation rate was only 15 percent. It averaged around 20 percent over the next two years before peaking at 28 percent in 2022.

“Importers are getting bolder and greedier now, and the Bank of Canada seems to be condoning – if not turning a blind eye – to the practice of undervaluation. This happens not only with rice, but also with most other commodities such as meat and vegetables,” Montemayor said.

Specifically, the FFF said rice supplies from Pakistan were “grossly understated” by 37 percent, despite the government already cutting tariffs on non-ASEAN countries to 35 percent, ostensibly to diversify rice sources in the Philippines.

Under the RTL, tariff levies from rice imports in excess of 10 billion pesos in a given year will go towards remittances to farmers affected by the imports.

The FFF again called for a review of the RTL as retail prices were “almost unchanged” despite an influx of cheap rice imports and lower selling prices.

In August 2022, Montemayor asked the government to investigate the underestimation of rice imports, which were valued at 3.84 billion pesos in January-July last year.

He said BOC data showed that from January to June 2022, 85 percent of the 2.28 million tons of rice imported was undervalued by an average of 5,664 pesos per metric ton (metric ton).

The Panel also noted that the BOC intercepted a 38,400 ton shipment of rice being unloaded at the port of Iloilo on suspicion of smuggling.

Image credits: Noni Reyes