We need more than just rice quantitative restriction


by Cai U. Ordinario

July 4, 2013

Business Mirror




While supporting the government’s appeal for the retention of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice importation, stakeholders in the rice-farming sector on Monday said the Aquino administration should be focusing more on long-term solutions instead of stopgap protectionist measures.


Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) said this should be the last appeal of the government for the extension of the QR privilege before the World Trade Organization (WTO).


In an interview on Thursday, R1, a member of the Task Force on WTO Agreement on Agriculture (Re) negotiations (TF-WAR), told reporters that the QR was only a stopgap measure that the government must eventually give up.


The convenors of R1 said the government should instead focus on efforts that would develop the farm sector with the aim of making it globally competitive and attractive to the younger generation of Filipinos.  


“Food is a national security issue, we cannot just totally rely on other countries [for supply], except [if] we are a small country like Singapore with high income. But for us, we are a country of 97 million people, we have to produce our own food,” R1 co-convenor Au Regalado said. 


“If we remove the QR, we should make sure the farm sector is already competitive and developed,” she added. 


R1 co-convenor Jessica Reyes-Cantos said the government must now move toward a “tariffication” of the QR. This means that the country should now set a certain tariff rate for all imported rice entering the domestic market. 


This also means the government could no longer control the entry of imported rice in the domestic market as long as importers are able to pay for the tariff set by the government. R1 said the maximum tariff rate that the government could set is 40 percent, in compliance with its bilateral trade agreements. 


The QR has allowed the government to limit the volume of rice that can be imported by the Philippines every year, preventing a possible influx of cheap rice imports. 


To date, only South Korea and the Philippines have rice QRs. This is the third time the Philippines is appealing for an extension of the QR and this time, it is being proposed to be extended to 2017. 


Industry sources earlier told the BusinessMirror that in negotiating for the QR extension, the Philippines would be forced to give tradeoffs to rice-exporting countries that may negatively impact on the domestic livestock and poultry sectors. These concessions may come in the form of reduced tariffs for imported meats.


TF-WAR is led by farmers, people’s organizations and industry groups. It aims for transparency and representation in the formulation of the Philippine negotiating position in the new round of WTO talks.







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