The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is urging local government units to enforce proper and truthful labeling in rice to enable consumers to differentiate locally-produced rice from imported ones.
Alice Mataia of PhilRice’s Policy Research and Advocacy project, said in a statement that the agency is recommending the formation of a local task force that would ensure that retailers consistently follow the correct standards in labeling.
Mataia said specifying rice sources in rice packages, box labels, and price tags will help consumers who want safe and quality local rice to make easy choices.
“A PhilRice-IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) study showed that Philippine rice recorded the least pesticide usage than the other rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia. With the LGUs enforcing existing guidelines on labeling of rice boxes and price tags through an ordinance or a resolution, we help consumers exercise their power to choose,” she said.
Mataia, an economist, also said demand for local rice may spur when more consumers can spot local rice and choose to buy it over imported ones, which will encourage rice traders to source their supply from local farmers.
“Also a way of promoting locally-produced rice, truthful labeling in rice entails putting valid, reliable, and complete information about the milling classification and source of rice in sacks/packages, rice boxes, or price tags based on prescribed labeling standards,” she said.
Mataia said the guidelines on rice labeling exist since 2018, which was issued by the National Food Authority and specified in the 2019 Philippine National Standards on Grains Grading and Classification.
The Rice Tariffication Law, however, repeals NFA’s regulatory functions, including its role in enforcing the national grains standard.
She noted that while the Bureau of Plant Industry took charge of NFA’s functions through inspections and issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs), it does not cover the implementation of labeling guidelines in rice.
She also said that retailer compliance with the Philippine National Standards on rice labeling and price tagging is voluntary.
“The system glitches on who-should-do-what in implementing labeling guidelines have resulted in some traders opting to not comply with the guidelines. Some retailers fail to meet the basic minimum standard and disregard milling grade and source in price tags,” she said.
At present, Mataia said some traders still include the rice brands while some allegedly mix imported and local rice or different rice grades to command higher prices, which are prohibited under Republic Act 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.*