DA official defends special order on corn tariff amid farmers’ clamor
MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary Noel Reyes defended the agency’s Special Order No. 540 amid an uproar among farmers.
Under the directive, a technical working group on trimming corn import duties has been established to provide access to cheaper animal feeds in the agriculture sector.
On Tuesday, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) lamented the order, saying it is “another knife in the back.”
FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor claimed that excessive importation of feed prompts the “sudden and recurrent drops in local corn prices.”
In a press briefing Thursday afternoon, Reyes clarified that the order is just for the creation of the technical working group that will study the slashing of rates, and no decision has been finalized yet.
Reyes also said that to boost corn in the country, twin efforts must be observed. First, the slashing of tariffs and then increasing the local production of corn.
Currently, the corn tariff is at 35 percent. Feed millers have been permitted to import unlimited volumes of corn substitutes that are free from value-added tax and with a lower tariff of seven percent, the group explained.
“DA has been powerless to help corn farmers weather low farm gate prices, claiming that the price support system previously run by the National Food Authority (NFA) had been terminated by the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL). Now, DA will take the extra step of being directly responsible for depressing corn prices,” Montemayor said.
FFF also noted the alleged illegal transshipment of corn imports through ASEAN countries to be eligible for the five-percent tariff in accordance with the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement. The group claimed that the government “turned a blind eye” on the matter.
Further, the FFF said that the slashing of tariffs was “ill-timed” as the peak harvest season for corn begins this August.
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