Rice group concerned over US' blocking PHL bid for QR extension


GMA News

Dec. 4, 2012  





A consortium of groups working for policy changes in rice trading expressed concern over the United States’ lukewarm response to the Philippines' request for an extension of its quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports.

In a statement, the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) said that while other countries have shown support for the Philippines' request to the World Trade Organization, the US is playing hardball.

“This is important in our bid to achieve rice self-sufficiency in 2013. Allowing liberal importation will surely hamper our farmers' motivation to produce more for our domestic needs,” said R1 convenor Aurora Regalado.

The rice QR allows the Philippines to limit the volume of rice that comes in to protect both farmers and consumers from sudden price fluctuations in the domestic market.

R1 campaigned for the extension of the QR in 2005, saying that the free influx of imported rice hit local farmers' incomes while the country continued to struggle for rice self-sufficiency.

The government has been working to extend the QR, hoping to achieve rice self-sufficiency in 2013.

R1 also criticized a study commissioned by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) on the Agriculture Department’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program which said food sufficiency is not possible in the near future, and which also discouraged restrictions on imports as this could increase the price of local rice and other food staples.

“Import restriction is a very critical element for the Philippine trade policy in the context of the government’s development goals, emphasizing on increasing farmers’ income and improving their livelihood. We don’t need this recommendation while we’re still negotiating in the WTO that’s why we found the motives of his statements suspect,” said R1, referring to PIDS senior research fellow RoehlanoBriones, who conducted the study.

R1 alleged that the PIDS statement was meant to halt growing government support to agriculture, which has been criticized by economists "promoting neoliberal policies under the liberalized market regime." — BM, GMA News









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