In the debates that followed the executive orders of President Rodrigo Duterte that lowered the tariffs on imported rice and pork, several large business groups are urging the country’s farm sector to be more welcoming to foreign trade and investments.
While the executive orders were put in place temporarily to arrest high prices of pork and prevent a possible shortage of rice, farmers, hog raisers, and interest groups and some lawmakers have not welcomed the decision.
Business groups, on the other hand, say an open trade stance would help keep food affordable and safe and would also strengthen the capability of creating jobs for the rural population. They add that a more open agriculture sector would help attain the goal of stronger growth and food security.
The groups are consist of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc., Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., Fisheries and Aquaculture Board, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Meat Importers and Traders Association, and the Philippine Association of Flour Millers Inc.
“Predictable imports encourage investments in downstream industries to diversify and grow in situations where local agricultural inputs are inadequate for their requirements. The competition that local producers face from imported products has the potential of introducing innovations in local agriculture, needed for stronger and competitive growth,” the groups said.
The debate to open the country’s farm sector to foreign trade has been ongoing for decades, and the outcry stemming from the recent lowering of tariffs to keep prices manageable is an indication that, up to now, our farmers are still not yet ready to compete in an open market.
It is easy for business groups to tell the farm sector to step up but it is ultimately up to government and the stakeholders in the farming sector to plan for a future where our agricultural products are widely available and competitive, in terms of price and quality.*