The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority (NFA) are currently studying the establishment of a rice trading center in ZamBaSulTa — Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said the measure can curb rice smuggling in the area.
Based on the estimation of the agriculture department, about 2,000 metric tons or 4 million sacks of rice from Vietnam and Thailand are being shipped by smugglers every year.
Piñol said that smuggling is causing the government to lose P2 billion worth of revenues that end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.
Smuggled rice has also made its way to Central Visayas which threatens local farmers in Mindanao who are losing farmhands.
The secretary added that the government’s intensified anti-smuggling campaign caused the dwindling of rice supply in ZamBaSulaTa which resulted in the price hike.
“They[ NFA Council] agreed that smugglers there should be paying taxes to the government and become legal suppliers of rice for the region,” Piñol said.
ZamBaSulaTa is only able to harvest 10 percent of their annual rice requirement of 201,000 metric tons.
The NFA is also currently processing the permit for private importation of 132,000 metric tons of rice through minimum access volume. These will be allocated to affected areas only.
Loans given to farmers through production loan easy access are also expected to boost rice production. — Rey Pelayo