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Rice import curbs in effect until 2017

Local agricultural production expanded by 1.2% in 2013

By: Ronnel W. Domingo, January 23rd, 2014 03:49 AM

Private-sector rice importers cannot flood the Philippine market with foreign supplies at their will since quantitative restrictions (QRs) on importation are still in effect, according to a coalition of agriculture industry groups.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), citing World Trade Organization (WTO) documents, said in a statement Wednesday that restrictions on rice imports stand until 2017.

Sinag noted that the Philippines has filed with the WTO its “Request for a Waiver relating to Special Treatment for Rice,” asking for the continued effectiveness of restrictions, which was unchallenged in any of the WTO’s general council meetings held in 2013.

“No country has formally opposed the Philippines’ request for waiver,” said Sinag chair Rosendo So. “Of the eight countries having bilateral talks with the country since March of last year, six have already agreed to new terms for our QRs until 2017, including Australia, China, El Salvador, India, Pakistan and Vietnam.”

Based on this, according to Sinag, foreign suppliers can ship into the Philippines at least 350,000 metric tons of milled rice yearly.

“(This should) set the record straight and put to stop insinuations on the status of the country’s request for waiver,” So said.

“Lawyers (who represent consignees of allegedly smuggled rice from Vietnam) who are insisting on the expiration of the QRs are not even a party nor can they speak for and in behalf of any WTO member country,” he added.

He noted that a portion of the shipments from Vietnam, detained in Davao City, was released last week based on arguments that the restrictions have expired.

Citing the Switzerland-based intergovernmental body South Centre, Sinag said the only way for countries to contest the QRs currently in place is to seek redress through the WTO Dispute Settlement mechanism and for them to actually win the case.

Meantime, Philippine agricultural production grew by 1.2 percent to P777.8 billion at constant prices despite typhoons exacting significant damage to farms, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.

BAS data showed that, at current prices, output expanded by 3.5 percent to P1.5 trillion.

The crops subsector, which represented 51 percent of total output value, barely grew as it inched up 0.09 percent to P397 billion. Palay farmers posted a 2.3-percent increase in production to P156.2 billion.

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