Groups seek post-QR measures for rice farmers

MANILA-- The Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) and National Movement on Food Sovereignty (NMFS) are seeking for government's safety nets for farmers once the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice expires by June this year.

In a briefing Wednesday, IRDF Executive Director Arze Glipo said the government had no post-QR measures for rice farmers, which means there would be no protection for locally produced rice from what he described an expected "tsunami" of cheaper imported rice in the market.

"We are seeking for post-QR safety nets or mechanisms, but there was none. So it gives us more reason to renegotiate and extend the QR," Glipo said in Filipino.

Since the Philippines became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), in which the country committed to eliminate import restrictions, it was able to retain the right to impose QR on rice for 10 years until 2005.

The country was allowed by the WTO to extend the QR on rice until 2012 and was given anew extension for five years until June 2017.

But the current administration has failed to renegotiate another extension for QR on rice as the government did not submit a notification for QR extension at least six months before the import control lapses.

Economic managers have been pushing for the lifting of import quota on rice to lower prices of the staple food and allow businesses to increase their rice imports.

The NMFS, however, pointed out that the influx of cheaper imported rice in the market would threaten the local sector.

The group noted that locally produced rice cannot compete with the price of imported rice since the Philippine government does not provide full subsidy to rice farmers compared to rice producer neighbors like Vietnam and Thailand.

The lack of support to rice farmers made the production cost in the Philippines higher compared to the two ASEAN countries.

Rice production cost in the country is at USD1,479 per hectare, while Vietnam's cost is at USD1,059 per hectare and Thailand's at USD1,027 per hectare.

This resulted in higher wholesale price for locally produced rice at Php 34.50 per kilogram compared to Thailand's rice at Php 30.9 per kilogram and Vietnam's at Php 27.3 per kilogram.

With the expiration of QR on rice, Glipo said that imported rice would still be slapped with tariff duty of 35 percent under the Republic Act No. 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which replaces quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products with tariffs except for rice.

"We should assert that QR under our national law," Glipo said.

Moreover, aside from the expiration of import quota on rice in June with no post-QR safety nets, IRDF and NMFS said rice farmers faced new threat as there was an initiative to give up QR on rice under the Agricultural Tariffication Act.

On Wednesday morning, IRDF met with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol, who stressed its position to retain the QR on rice.

In a statement, PiAol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) bucks the proposed amendment of Tariff Code to lift the QR on rice.

The DA, instead, will endorse the extension of Executive Order No. 190, imposing tariff duties for imported agricultural products, including rice. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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