Mindanao mulls caps on agri imports

Published September 21, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Mindanao is planning to restrict the entry of imported agricultural products, including rice, as one of the strategies to restart the region’s economy during the pandemic.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Emmanuel Piñol (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Emmanuel Piñol said Mindanao’s economy –adversely affected by the disruption of supply chain because of COVID-19 – could make an immediate recovery if the government regulates the entry of imports, especially rice, pork and chicken.

Right now, Mindanao accounts for 40 percent of the country’s food requirement and 30 percent of the food trade.

Piñol said he already submitted his recommendation to regulate agricultural imports to the leaders of Mindanao Regional Development Councils (RDC), who then asked MinDA to submit a consolidated report on the impact of low agricultural products prices to Mindanao’s economic recovery.

His recommendation contains the appeal of agriculture stakeholders in Mindanao, especially rice farmers who are now asking for government support as farm gate prices fell below break-even levels.

 At the height of harvest, rice farmers in Mindanao said that farm gate prices have dipped to as low as P12 per kilo (/kg), which is equivalent to the production cost. Corn prices have also fallen to as low as P10/kg from a high of P16/kg before harvest.

 “I recommended that the importation of rice and other products, which the local farmers could easily produce and benefit from, should be regulated as we address the economic slowdown brought about by the pandemic,” Piñol explained.

Piñol feared that if Mindanao RDC and MinDA won’t act fast, farmers and livestock raisers would incur further losses.

“That process [approval of regulation of agricultural imports] will take months and by the time it is completed, harvest season would be over and the farmers would have lost their shirts again,” Piñol said.

 “Aside from that, we would have lost the opportunity of triggering the economic recovery of Mindanao through its agriculture, livestock and poultry sectors,” he added.

As an immediate solution, he recommended that local government units (LGUs) in Mindanao must take the initiative to promote and only “buy local” to support not only the agricultural producers but also the local manufacturers.

 “By promoting and buying local products, we provide income-earning opportunities and jobs to Filipinos and at the same time, allow the circulation of money intended for imports in the country to perk up the economy,” Piñol further said.