^

Business

Open agriculture trade only to what Philippines cannot produce

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star
Open agriculture trade only to what Philippines cannot produce
In a joint statement over the weekend, seven large organizations maintained that the country’s farm sector should be more welcoming to foreign trade and investments in a bid to keep food more available and affordable for all Filipinos.
STAR / Edd Gumban, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should only open agriculture trade on commodities it cannot produce, a local agricultural group said.

“I think if we can produce, there is no need [for more open trade], “Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) chairperson Rosendo So told The Star in a phone interview.

In a joint statement over the weekend, seven large organizations maintained that the country’s farm sector should be more welcoming to foreign trade and investments in a bid to keep food more available and affordable for all Filipinos.

Among these groups are 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 of the Philippines (FABP).

They are also joined by the Foundation for Economic Freedom, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) and the Philippine Association of Flour Millers Inc.

The business groups emphasized that imports help dampen food price inflation, which, according to them, eats up the purchasing power of Filipino consumers at times when local food production falls short of demand.

“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.

“Let’s not kill the local industry. Let’s protect farmers and the local industry,” So said.

Agriculture groups such SINAG and the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) earlier appealed to Congress to investigate the issuance of executive order (EO) 135, which lowers the tariffs for both in-quota and out-quota rice imports to 35 percent for one year.

This was done to diversify the country’s market sources, augment rice supply, maintain prices affordable and reduce pressures on inflation.

The FFF stressed that the country’s rice inventories and projected domestic production figures point to stable supplies of rice.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said trade can be opened up for agricultural industries which the country does not have comparative advantages in.

“In agricultural commodity industries where we have or will have comparative advantages, we have to have tariffs on imports of such items to further develop those commodity industries,” Dar told The Star in a text message.

“For industries that we don’t have such comparative advantages, we can pursue a more open agricultural trade to ensure food security and stability,” he said.

As the business groups push for a more open agriculture sector, they also 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.

Last week, MITA and the FABP urged the government to ensure that the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations that it implements abide by international trade accords in a bid to foster more open and safer trade of agricultural commodities.

AGRICULTURE
Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with