THE Department of Agriculture in Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) is stepping up measures to allay possible adverse effects of the impending lifting of quantitative restrictions to the farmers in the region, its top official said.
DA Regional Director Joyce Wendam said the lifting of the quantitative restrictions is an offshoot of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration which started in 2015.
Wendam said the effects of the free trade agreement, particularly for commodities like rice, will be fully felt this year. Meaning, once quantitative restrictions are lifted there will be free inflow of rice imports to country without minimum access volume and tariff.
The lifting of quantitative restrictions is most likely by June 30 this year, but the DA believes it will not take effect immediately since there is still an amendment to the law taking probably at least two years.
“The agriculture secretary wants to prepare our farmers as early as possible mainly through improving their productivity,” Wendam said, adding that “when imported rice products come in without us being prepared, our local farmers will surely suffer.”
Other countries like Vietnam has the lowest average production cost with average market price value of P21 per kilogram, far lower than Philippine’s P35 per kilogram.
Under this scenario, it is most likely for consumers to opt for cheaper imported rice over the locally-produced commodity, the DA-NIR official said.
Details on the lifting of the quantitative restrictions will be discussed during the regional farmers and fisherfolk congress this month.
For local farmers not to be seriously affected by the lifting, the DA is implementing various measures to increase agricultural productivity.
These include the use of high-yielding and climate-resilient seed varieties, cost-saving technologies, and provision of credit support, free irrigation and insurance coverage.
Wendam said that under the Masagana 6000 program, one of DA’s key strategies in improving productivity, the agency targets the six metric tons per hectare harvest.
She added that the DA will also establish rice model farms to showcase technologies on increasing production, promote hybrid rice, and provide fertilizers.
For Negros Occidental, there is a 70-hectare potential area identified for rice model farms comprised of 12 sites, she added.
For his part, National Irrigation Administration-Negros Island Region Director Engineer Mario Sande said they will continue to coordinate with DA in improving rice production in the region.
“We will assure that water is available and properly managed,” Sande said, adding that they will also help in organizing farmers for efficient delivery of irrigation services.