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Philippines steps up inflation fight with food tariff cuts

MANILA (CNA) – The Philippines said yesterday it has extended until the end of 2022 an executive order that lowers the tariff rate for rice imported from outside Southeast Asia to 35 per cent from 40 to 50 per cent.

Racing to tame inflation, the government also cut tariffs on corn and announced the temporary removal of a seven per cent duty on coal imports, a key fuel in power generation.

The modified tariff schedule, initially issued last year and extended by President Rodrigo Duterte last month, was made public yesterday after data showed inflation in May at the highest since November 2018 and above this year’s two to four per cent target band.

The Philippines, which is forecast to be the world’s second-largest rice buyer this year after China, is projected to import 2.8 million tonnes for marketing year 2022/23 to cover a domestic shortfall, according to the United States (US) Department of Agriculture.

The reduction brings the tariff on rice in line with the prevailing 35 per cent rate for imports from the country’s Southeast Asian neighbours.

The Philippines remains heavily dependent on Vietnam for its import requirements and also buys some volumes from Thailand.

It seldom imports from India, the world’s top exporter, but Manila has recently floated the idea of diversifying its sources for cheaper supply, with Indian rice as an alternative.

Manila’s decision to keep rice tariff rates low comes at a time when Thailand and Vietnam are planning to raise prices, although a top Thai industry official had raised questions over the plan’s viability.

Corn tariff rates have been cut to five to 15 per cent, effective until end-2022 and reverting to 35 to 50 per cent next year, while tariffs on meat products will remain at a lower 15 to 25 per cent until year-end and revert to 30 to 40 per cent next year.

People at a market in Quezon city, Manila. PHOTO: AFP
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