THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is weighing its actions on the impending lifting of quantitative restrictions particularly on rice importation considering its possible implications, an agency official aid.
Leo Cañeda, member of Special Technical Assistant Group of DA Central Office, who spoke at the culminating activity of the Farmers and Fisherfolk Month at the Bacolod Pavillon Hotel Friday, May 26, said the opinion of the agriculture sector whether to lift or maintain the restrictions is divided.
Cañeda said some say, like that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that it should already be lifted while others would like to maintain it believing that the country needs more time to make local farmers more competitive.
“There is no final position yet but talks are continuing and we are trying to harmonize competing views on the matter,” he said, adding that the agency is expected to have the decision before the scheduled lifting on June 30 this year.
Aside from lifting and maintaining the quantitative restrictions, DA is also looking into the possibility of just calibrating it by only shortening the extension period.
But in any case, even under free trade, the DA will still “regulate” the volume of rice importation basing on the situation of harvest in a given planted area, Cañeda added.
During the activity, the DA official underscored the advantages and disadvantages of lifting the quantitative restrictions.
Cañeda said the lifting of the restrictions may lead to tariffication thus, revenues generated can be used as fund to support safety initiatives intended for farmers who might be dislocated.
Without quantitative restrictions, experts are seeing that supply of basic staple commodity will be assured due to importations resulting to lowering of the product prices and cheaper rice for the consumers.
The disadvantages, on the other hand, mainly include dislocation especially of local small farmers.
“We are hedging that it should not happen,” Cañeda said. “The agency is doing everything that it can through social protection programs and safety nets to continue helping our farmers.”
In Negros Island Region (NIR), the DA had earlier said it is already stepping up measures to allay possible adverse effects of the lifting of quantitative restrictions to the farmers in the region.
Joyce Wendam, regional director of DA-NIR, reiterated that for local farmers not to be seriously affected by the lifting, the agency 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, she added.