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Philippines Keen on Keeping Quantitative Restriction on Rice

04 July 2013

PHILIPPINES - Unresolved issues related to concessions with rice -exporting countries continue to get in the way of the Philippines' bid to secure approval for the extension of a World Trade Organization (WTO) scheme that shields the country from a possible deluge of cheap imported rice to the detriment of local farmers.

Quoting the BusinessMirror, ABS-CBNnews.com reports that Agriculture Assistant Secretary Romeo Recide said that the Philippines will again appeal to the WTO’s Council for Trade in Goods the country’s request for the extension of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice in October. Manila has been seeking approval of its request for about a year now.

"We can’t be very specific but we still have to resolve some issues on the concessions. [But] we have some substantial agreements with [other] countries," Mr Recide said.

But industry sources expressed apprehension that the government’s insistence on keeping the "protectionist measure" could adversely impact on the livestock and poultry sectors, as Manila would be forced to give up something in return.

Last year hog raisers disclosed that the Philippines had to reduce tariff on pork offal to 5 percent from 40 percent as a concession to extend the QR from 2007 up to 2012. Industry sources said the Philippines might be forced to implement reductions on tariffs imposed on other meat products in exchange for retaining the QR.

The QR allows the Philippines to limit the volume of rice that can be imported by the Philippine government through the National Food Authority (NFA).

Currently, only South Korea and the Philippines make use of the QR to prevent the deluge of cheap imported rice.

Mr Recide said the concessions issues would be discussed with stakeholders from the local agriculture sector this week. This, he said, is in preparation for the government’s appeal to the WTO committee in October.

Last year former NFA Administrator Angelito T. Banayo said Manila might have a hard time extending the special treatment for rice for at least three more years due to the expected difficulties that the government could face in negotiating with countries that have interests in the local livestock and poultry sectors.

Nine countries expressed their intention to negotiate with the Philippines. These are the United States, Canada, Thailand, Viet Nam, Pakistan, India, El Salvador, China and Australia.

China has already announced that it would not block the Philippine request despite the current tensions between Manila and Beijing over the Scarborough Shoal ownership.

The QR has already been extended for five years or until 2012. The Philippines had to agree to increase its minimum access volume for rice to 350,000 metric tons as one of the trade-offs. The MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce that the Philippines will allow to enter the Philippines at reduced duty.

The Agriculture official, who is also co-chairman of the negotiating panel for the rice QR, explained that the special protection is a means to protect rice farmers.

"The Philippines has initiated a movement with the WTO that we will continue to protect rice. The importation of rice in this country will continue to be subject to what we call quantitative restrictions," said Mr Recide.

"This is provided to protect our rice farmers but this privilege expired last year. However, we have launched an initiative in the WTO [to] continue to negotiate [and] extend this privilege of quantitative restrictions on rice all the way to 2017," he added.

The government said rice is the predominant staple in the Philippines and the primary source of employment for at least 2.4 million farmers, the majority of whom are small landholders.

TheCropSite News Desk



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