GMA News Online

PHL seeks WTO nod extending rice import restrictions

November 9, 2011 6:51pm
The Philippines will petition the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice after the Department of Agriculture (DA) gave the negotiation the green light, said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Alcala said the DA will have to coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the official notification in Geneva, noting government has yet to identify the list of concessions the country’s traditional trading partners might ask in exchange for the QR extension for another three years.

The QR on rice is a commitment with the WTO that the entry of imported rice would be controlled only by the national government here in the Philippines. Essentially, the restriction is a form of “import ban" to protect local farmers from the influx of cheap, imported rice.

Alcala said the government was contemplating whether in exchange for the extension its trading partners would ask to further lower the tariff on rice imports or increase the volume allowed for trade. At present, a 40 percent duty is imposed on in-quota rice while out-quota rice gets a higher duty of 50 percent.

Government is pushing for the QR extension, citing the need to prepare Filipino farmers for international trade and to achieve rice self-sufficiency.

Alcala said that the Philippines still needs some form of protection because “we are not yet self sufficient in palay production."

The Philippines aims to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013 by producing 21 million metric tons of palay. Until then, government plans to keep the QR on rice importation in place.

To push for the QR, the Philippine government had to conduct bilateral negotiations with nine WTO members – the United States, China, India, Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Thailand.

In 2005, the Philippines agreed as a concession to increase its minimum access volume for rice to 350,000 metric tons in exchange for extending the restriction until 2012.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department is set to announce next week the country’s approved volume for rice importation as well as its third quarter farm output, both of which, Alcala said, will have an “impact on the volume that the Department (of Agriculture) is planning to bring in."

The bidding will be conducted early 2012 and the arrival will be timed for the lean months starting July.
The DA announced that the country will find it difficult to meet with the self-imposed target of 17.3 million metric tons after the several typhoons destroyed standing rice crops that would otherwise have been harvested during the wet season cropping starting October. —MRT/VS, GMA News
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