Friday, May 27, 2016

Concern for Philippine farmers when rice import quotas are lifted

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The head of the Philippines' food security and agricultural modernization agency has expressed her concern over the impending lifting of the trade restrictions on rice.

To 'insulate' the local rice market from rice imports, the Philippines maintains government quotas on them, a measure discouraged under the international trade agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). By June 2017, the country's quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports will be lifted. 

"What will happen to our farmers?” Edel Guiza, secretary of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, asked this during her visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on 19 May. “We have been discussing possible schemes together with the National Food Authority on what mechanisms we can put in place." 

Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI's deputy director general for communication and partnerships, concurred that the country has no choice to lift the restrictions because the WTO will not agree to another extension of the QR. However, he raised an important point on providing ways to support farmers other than through a QR.

“One of the reasons why the country's rice is not as competitive as the commodity is in Vietnam, Thailand, and other rice-producing countries is the high cost of production,” Tolentino said. "This can mostly be attributed to our high labor costs because food is expensive. Why is food expensive? Because rice prices are high. Once we're able to manage rice production and make it less expensive and comparable to, say, Vietnam, we will then be able to manage production costs." 

(This news article was written by Paula Bianca Ferrer, IRRI.)

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