By Jasper Y. Arcalas, December 12 2018; Business Mirror


Image Credit to Business Mirror

The absence of a provision under the rice tariffication bill that will allow the export of corn has angered farmers belonging to the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PhilMaize), saying they had lost the chance of having an alternative market for their produce.

PhilMaize President Roger V. Navarro said they “vehemently” oppose the seeming deliberate omission of the provision but admitted that they can only do so much as the bicameral conference committee-approved rice tariffication bill is nearing its passage into law.

“It is to our frustration that, for so long a time, the corn farmers want to export and until today we are not given the chance. It was taken out from the tariffication [bill],” Navarro told the BusinessMirror.

“It is truly unfair that they are liberalizing our rice [sector] but still they are [imposing] restrictions [on] corn until this time. That’s very unfair to us,” he lamented.

Under House Bill 7735, a specific provision was included directing the National Food Authority (NFA) to establish rules and regulations governing the export of rice and corn.

The provision was supported by PhilMaize, the NFA, and even by the Department of Agriculture (DA) under Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

However, the provision was not adopted by the bicam as it opted to use Senate Bill (SB) 1998 as the working draft of the rice tariffication bill that would remove the quantitative restriction (QR) on the staple.

The bicam-approved rice tariffication bill only carried SB 1998’s provision lifting the quantitative export restrictions on rice and did not contain any language or provision allowing the export of corn.

“It was included in the House version and the [agriculture] secretary has also acknowledge that and he concurred,” he said. “The problem is that the Senate railroaded the bill and the provision was not included.”

As early as January 2017, Piñol has been keen on allowing corn farmers to tap the export market to regulate local farm-gate prices in times of oversupply. However, an amendment to the NFA charter is needed in order for farmers to export corn.

Under the present NFA charter, corn farmers are only allowed to export corn when the NFA Council certifies that there is an oversupply in the local market.

Navarro earlier explained that allowing the export of corn would also boost local farm-gate prices. “The ability to export would be considered by traders in setting farm-gate price,” he said.

Furthermore, Navarro said, they are worried over the future of the NFA’s corn procurement program once the QR on rice imports is lifted.

Navarro explained that it is now unclear on who would buy corn from local farmers when farm-gate prices depress in times of oversupply.

“That has been part of the mandate of the NFA. The problem now is it seems that they changed its mandate,” he said.