So by the looks of it, it seems that President Arroyo has finally come to her senses. Based on reports from the Inquirer, the private sector can now import rice, although the government still maintains high tariffs for it. High tariff for rice means we are likely to continue having expensive rice, but that policy move is good enough to remove the discretion of bureaucrats in rice importation. In the past, only the NFA could import rice, giving only small volumes to the private sector to bring in grains through “minimum access” importation. If I’m not mistaken, the new policy changes all that, thus allowing everybody else to bring in rice. Traders would be discouraged to hoard, since any sign of “scarcity” (through hoarding or real scarcity) would immediately trigger others to import from global sources.
Having said that, there’s no substitute for an honest-to-goodness government program for rice increased production. We need to because global stocks are low; the Chinese, the Indians, and the Indonesians have been buying lots of grains in the world market. And why don’t we tap the experts in our midst? Ding Panganiban for instance is the best when it comes to expertise in rice production. So is Dr. Emil Javier, Asia’s foremost agriculturist. Why is the government not mobilizing their expertise?