Agriculture groups slam plan to lower corn tariffs

“We are baffled by (the) Agriculture Secretary’s insistence to lower the tariff rates considering the increase in corn production over the last two years,” Bayanihan sa Agrikultura said in a statement yesterday.
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MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of agriculture groups is opposing the Department of Agriculture’s plan to lower tariffs on yellow corn imports, saying it will further cripple the agriculture industry.

“We are baffled by (the) Agriculture Secretary’s insistence to lower the tariff rates considering the increase in corn production over the last two years,” Bayanihan sa Agrikultura said in a statement yesterday.

“And despite the abundance in production, the income of corn farmers did not increase, showing the incompetence of the DA in promoting and managing our own agricultural resources,” said the coalition of 98 agriculture groups.

In a recent special order signed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar, the DA established a technical working group to examine the possible reforms in the tariff structure of yellow corn, including a possible reduction in tariffs in a bid to provide a lower and steady supply of the commodity to farmers who use it for animal feeds.

Philippine Maize Federation president Roger Navarro earlier said any proposal to amend the tariffs on imported corn is a death sentence to the industry.

“The production did not translate to income since the prices of corn were low. There was also no government intervention because according to the Rice Tariffication Law, the National Food Authority (NFA) is mandated to be rice-centric,” Navarro said.

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Bayanihan sa Agrikultura said the lowering of tariffs on imported corn does not guarantee significant reduction in prices of livestock and poultry.

United Broilers Raisers Association president Elias Jose Inciong said the prices of poultry and livestock are not dependent on the rate of corn tariffs but on the supply-demand dynamics of a particular commodity.

“This is just another public relations stunt of the DA designed to divide and rule the agriculture sector,”Inciong said.

“There is no need to lower corn tariffs because corn is already massively entering the country in the form of imported chicken and pork which were fed with feeds produced under subsidized agricultural systems, “ he said.

The coalition also questioned the formation of a TWG, composed mostly of white-collar government officials and researchers, none of whom truly represents small farmers.

It said this is particularly alarming considering that these small corn farmers are the ones who stand to be greatly affected by the reduction of tariffs should the proposal push through.

The Bayanihan sa Agrikultura said the proposal to lower tariff rates on imported corn already suggests cowardice from the DA and its propensity to completely fold to financial and economic pressures at the expense of our smallholder producers.

Earlier this week, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said the DA’s initiative was ill-timed, considering that the peak harvest season for corn starts this August.

The FFF said a tariff cut would not trim livestock production costs significantly. It also contested the DA’s misleading insinuation that corn constitutes up to 70 percent of the production cost of chicken.

According to the DA, the lowering of tariffs of imported yellow corn from non-ASEAN countries coupled with increased production efforts will allow for the cheaper and steady supply of corn for farmers who use it for animal feeds.

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