At least 7 industry groups call for agri liberalization

Published May 25, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

At least seven industry groups in the Philippines are calling for the liberalization of agriculture sector to secure food supplies.

  The groups, led by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham) and Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Inc. (CCAP), said they believe that the Philippines’ agriculture sector should become more open to foreign trade and investments to help keep food affordable and safe to all Filipinos.

This, according to them, will also strengthen the agriculture sector’s capability of creating jobs for the rural population.

  Aside from AmCham and CCAP, the other groups which supported the call are Cargill Philippines, Inc., Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc., Fisheries and Aquaculture Board, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Meat Importers and Traders Association, and Philippine Association of Flour Millers, Inc. (PAFMIL).

They said that in times when local food production falls short of demand, imported food helps to dampen food price inflation which eats up the purchasing power of our Filipino consumers.   “Second, predictable imports encourage investments in downstream industries diversify and grow in situations that local agricultural inputs are inadequate for their requirements,” the groups said.   “Finally, the competition local producers’ face from imported products has the potential of introducing innovations in local agriculture, needed for stronger and competitive growth,” they added.

The groups likewise said the government authorities must just need to follow more closely the internationally agreed disciplines in invoking food safety import regulations, such as the principles of transparency and non-discrimination.

“If the Department of Agriculture (DA) has to restrict the entry of imports, authorities have to provide stakeholders with the reasons why, with supporting scientific data from their assessments of the risk, and information that the measures taken are the least trade restrictive to effectively address the risk,” the groups said.

They also urged the government to take an inventory of all laws and regulations, which discourage entry of foreign investments in the sector, and take away such unnecessary measures.

The groups’ call came a week after groups of local food producers said they are now experiencing the worst crisis in years amid the pandemic, lack of government support, and the DA’s pro-importation stance.

“We are now paying the price for the long-term neglect of the sector. The economy and our people would not be as badly hit if agri-fisheries were in a better place [prior to the pandemic],” United Broiler Raisers’ Association (UBRA) President Bong Inciong said.

Right now, he said the agriculture sector is being managed by the government solely based on the suggestions of economists and not the country’s food producers.

To recall, more than 10 agriculture groups, whose members are fishers and farmers, boycotted the recently held National Food Security Summit, which was organized by the DA.