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Rethink plan to cut tariffs on corn, group tells government

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 TWG 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 Federation Inc. 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. Karlo Adriano 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.”

“[The TWG must] identify social protection measures which can be delivered immediately to the corn tillers to mitigate the adjustment problems to be experienced once the tariff reform is pursued,” the SO read.

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