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Business

Business groups: Open agriculture trade to ensure food stability

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Business groups: Open agriculture trade to ensure food stability
In a joint statement, seven large organizations maintained that the country’s farm sector should be more welcoming to foreign trade and investments.
STAR / Cesar Ramirez, file

MANILA, Philippines — The local agriculture sector should be more open to foreign trade to ensure that food is available and affordable for all Filipinos, following the continued conflict over lower import duties on some commodities, business groups said.

In a joint statement, seven large organizations maintained that the country’s farm sector should be more welcoming to foreign trade and investments.

They said that such an open trade stance would help keep food affordable and safe and would also strengthen the capability of creating jobs for the rural population.

The groups consist of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc., Cold Chain Association of the Philippines Inc., Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. and Fisheries and Aquaculture Board.

Joining them are the Foundation for Economic Freedom, Meat Importers and Traders Association and the Philippine Association of Flour Millers Inc.

Their statement came on the heels of the ongoing debate among various stakeholders following the executive orders issued by President Duterte.

Duterte lowered the tariff on imported rice shortly after he ordered the reduction of duties on imported pork.

While the orders are put in place temporarily to arrest high prices of pork and prevent a possible shortage of rice, farmers, hog raisers, groups and lawmakers have not welcomed the latest decision.

The groups argued that a more open agriculture sector would help attain the goal of a stronger growth and food security.

Imports help dampen food price inflation, which eats up the purchasing power of Filipino consumers at times when local food production falls short of demand, they said.

“Predictable imports encourage investments in downstream industries to diversify and grow in situations where local agricultural inputs are inadequate for their requirements. The competition local producers face from imported products has the potential of introducing innovations in local agriculture, needed for stronger and competitive growth,” the groups said.

As they push for a more open agriculture sector, the stakeholders emphasized the importance of doubling up on efforts to keep the country safe from possible diseases, pests, and other hazards that imports may introduce.

However, they are asking authorities to more closely follow the internationally agreed disciplines in invoking such regulations, including the principles of transparency and non-discrimination.

If the Department of Agriculture has to restrict entry of imports, the groups urged authorities to provide stakeholders sufficient reasons and scientific data from assessments of the risk.

Further, the groups said foreign investments in the sector are necessary to intensify and diversify farm production and introduce technologies that would enhance competitiveness of the local industry.

AGRICULTURE
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