Farmers lobby against extension of lowered food import tariffs

REUTERS

FARMER organizations are asking the government not to extend a scheme of lowered tariffs on food imports, which expire at the end of the year.

Arguing the absence of benefit to consumers, the organizations said in a joint statement on Wednesday that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. should not extend Executive Order (EO) 171, and shift the government’s focus to upgrading domestic production.

Mr. Marcos concurrently serves as the Agriculture Secretary, and sets policy on food imports. EO 171 was issued by the previous government in May as an anti-inflation measure.

“What President Marcos does with EO 171 will be a litmus test of his political will in prioritizing local food production over imports and his ability to rein in economic managers who are pursuing a different tack,” the organizations said.  

“Despite the huge import volumes engendered by EO 171, consumers continue to reel from high food prices. The surge in imports has not benefited the buying public, whereas it has depressed farmgate prices. The National Treasury has lost billions in revenue due to reduced customs duties,” they added.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) has called for the extension of EO 171’s validity until the end of 2023 to address surging food prices.

The agricultural organizations said imports have discouraged farmers from increasing production.  

“Cheap imports have further discouraged our farmers from sustaining and expanding their production, thus causing even more supply shortages and increasing our dependence on imports. This vicious cycle will persist — for as long as we do not rationalize and align our trade policy with our sustainable food self-sufficiency objective,” the groups said.

Signed by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, EO 171 allowed lower tariffs for rice, corn, coal, and pork to continue until Dec. 31.  

The EO set the tariff on rice imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota at 35%, with out-of-quota imports charged 50%. The tariffs for pork within the MAV quota were reduced to 15% from 30%, while out-of-quota pork import tariffs were reset to 25% from 40%.

It also lowered the tariffs on corn imports within the quota to 5% from 35% and set rates for shipments beyond the quota to 15% from 50%.

The order also reduced the duty on coal imports to zero from 7%. 

Signatories to the statement include the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, Federation of Free Farmers, United Broiler Raisers Association, Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc., Philippine Maize Federation, Alyansa Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka, and Philippine Egg Board Association.

Other signatories were the Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organizations of the Philippines, Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas, Kalipunan ng mga Maliliit na Magniniyog ng Pilipinas, Tugon Kabuhayan, Integrated Rural Development Foundation, and Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave