Rethink plan to cut tariffs on corn, group tells govt

- Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas

AN agricultur­e industry coalition claimed that reducing corn tariffs would not really benefit local meat producers as annual cost savings may be less than P100 for every chicken produced.

The Bayanihan sa Agrikultur­a, a coalition of 98 organizati­ons nationwide, said lowering corn tariffs would just “cripple the agricultur­al sector and subsectors.”

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

“And despite the abundance in production, the income of corn farmers did not increase, showing the incompeten­ce of the DA [Department of Agricultur­e] in promoting and managing our own agricultur­al resources.”

The coalition said the lowering of corn tariffs “does not guarantee significan­t reduction in prices of livestock and poultry,” since these commoditie­s are dependent on “supply and demand dynamics.”

Citing the computatio­n of the Federation of Free Farmers, a member of the coalition, it said the reduction on corn tariffs will result in savings of less than P100 per chicken per year or about P0.017 to P0.26 per day.

It added that the creation of the DA’S technical working group (TWG) to study the proposed reforms in corn tariff structure“comes at a very unfortunat­e time” as the country is approachin­g the peak of the corn harvest season.

The coalition cutting corn tariffs is not needed since the commodity already enters the country in “massive volumes in the form of imported chicken and pork which were fed with feeds produced under subsidized agricultur­al systems.”

“[The coalition] calls on the agricultur­e agency to uphold polices that will benefit the local agricultur­e producers and not of the foreign countries. The coalition reiterates its demand for a DA with the heart and guts to protect Filipino farmers and to invoke all available trade and policy remedies when needed.”

The coalition also questioned the compositio­n of the T WG since it does not have anyone “truly representi­ng the small farmers.”

“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,” it said.

The Businessmi­rror reported on Monday that the philippine maize federation­inc. opposed the government’ s plan to amend the tariff structure for corn imports, saying this would spell the death of the local corn sector.

Dar issued Special Order 540 that created the TWG to amend the tariff structure for yellow corn. In his SO, Dar said it is “imperative to ensure the steady and cheaper” supply of corn to enable the livestock, poultry and fisheries industries to become competitiv­e.”

Dar instructed the TWG to review the recommenda­tion of dr. k ar lo adrian o to reduce the tariff on yellow corn imports from non-asean countries.

The TWG must also “identify programs and projects that will dramatical­ly improve the productivi­ty of corn and prioritize the areas where the programs and projects are to be implemente­d,” according to the SO.

The TWG should “determine the budgetary requiremen­t to successful­ly implement the programs and projects on increasing the productivi­ty of corn.”

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