Pinoy farmers not ready for lifting of WTO rice import limits — Agri Chief


The Philippines is not ready to have the rice importation quota lifted, considering that Filipino farmers must be prepared for such an eventuality, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said Tuesday.

"I disagree with the view that will lift the QR (quantitative restriction) at this point in time, because the Filipino farmer is not prepared," Piñol told a Senate hearing on the department's proposed budget for 2017.

The government plans to lift the QR on rice importation, which is supposedly good for the economy.

The QR has been in place since the country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, capping the amount of Philippine rice imports.

The country has a minimum access volume (MAV) of 805,000 metric tons (MT). The MAV is "the volume of a specific agricultural product that is allowed to be imported with a lower tariff as committed by the Philippines to the WTO under the Uruguay Round Final Act.

Of the total volume, 755,000MT is country-specific with Vietnam and Thailand accounting for the bulk while 50,000 MT is omnibus volume which may be imported from other sources.

The MAV carries a 40 percent tax, while imported rice exceeding the quote is taxed at 50 percent.

These were the conditions approved by the WTO in 2014, when the Philippines able to extend its QR to July 2017.

Removing the QR at this point would have a negative impact on the livelihood of rice farmers, Piñol noted. "Ang problema, pag nasaktaan ang mga Filipino farmers at umayaw sa farming, there will come a time when the country will be vulnerable to the manipulations of top rice-importing countries."

The Cabinet official said he need to prepare the rice farmers until 2019. "Hindi naman ako nagmamadali pero bigyan niyo naman ako ng dalawang taon. Give me two years before you lift the QR."

For her part, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Cynthia Villar said Piñol must renegotiate the terms with the WTO, considering that the QR is set to expire July next year.


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