MANILA - Bringing down tariffs on yellow corn imported from non-ASEAN countries will have dire consequences for local growers, a group representing corn farmers said on Thursday after the government created a body to study adjustments to import duties on the commodity.
The Philippine Maize Federation Inc (PhilMaize) said that if tariffs on yellow corn are lowered, the local corn industry will suffer the same fate as the rice and other agricultural products after the tariffs on these products were also reduced.
Philmaize president Roger Navarro made the warning after the Department of Agriculture issued an order last week creating a body to study possible adjustments to tariffs on imported corn.
Navarro said farmers were caught off guard when Agriculture Secretary William Dar issued Special Order No. 540 last week creating a Technical Working Group on tariffs of yellow corn.
He said they had been coordinating with authorities on the issue and were even part of the "roadmap."
"So nagulat na lang kami nagkaroon ng mga ganun na pronouncement,” Navarro said.
(So we were surprised when the pronouncement came out.)
In a virtual press conference, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Noel Reyes meanwhile said the government has yet to decide on the proposal to lower the tariffs.
“Ginawa ang Technical Working Group para pag-aralan kung ano ang maganda. Patas po 'yang twin efforts para i-increase ang production, at the same time ensure na maganda ang presyo ng corn para sa livestock, poultry, and fishery industry,” Reyes said.
(The Technical Working Group was created to study what is feasible. There are twin efforts to increase production and at the same time maintain a good price for corn for the livestock, poultry and fisheries industry.)
Philmaize meanwhile cited the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) on local rice growers who were hit hard by a flood of cheap imports 2 years ago.
“Mahihirapan na ang mga farmer, maghahanap na naman sila ng ibang crop,” said Navarro.
(Farmers will suffer, they will look at other crops to plant.)
Navarro added that after the RTL was passed in 2019, the National Food Authority stopped buying corn from local farmers, which has driven corn prices lower.
“'Di mo na nga siya tinulungan eh nilibing mo pa siya nang buhay,” he said.
(They do not get any help, and now you want to bury them.)
PhilMaize said they will write a formal position letter addressed to the Congress, the Department of Agriculture, and the Office of the President, to let the government know they ‘vehemently oppose’ the plan to lower the tariffs on yellow corn.
- Report from April Rafales, ABS-CBN News