Participants listen attentively as Mr. Marlito Cabuños of Policy Research Service presents the government’s policy options (Photos courtesy of PDCD)

The Department of Agriculture (DA), through PCAF, conducted a cluster-wide consultation on rice QR to formulate unified inputs that can help the government in coming up with its position on the expiration of the waiver in 2017.

Representatives from the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Offices (DA RFOs), local government units, rice farmer organizations, business sector (including traders/millers, seed growers, and input suppliers), Regional and Provincial Agriculture and Fishery Councils (RAFCs/ PAFCs), and civil society organizations engaged in rice industry development participated in the said event.

Luzon A cluster key rice industry players gathered on September 22, 2016 at Hotel Stotsenberg, Angeles City, Pampanga and on September 28, 2016, the Luzon B cluster consultation was held at Hotel Rembrandt, Quezon City.

The series of cluster-wide consultation primarily aims to present the policy options that the government has in relation to the impending expiration of the waiver on the special treatment on rice.

The first option is securing another waiver while the second option is to tariffy.

According to Marlito Cabuños of DA-Policy Research Service (PRS), if the second option is chosen, there are three more choices to be considered. First, tariffy based on the formula of tariff equivalent; second,tariffication plus upward adjustment of the tariff equivalent; lastly, tariffy and negotiate with ASEAN member states.

The undertakings also wish to discuss the possible consequences that may arise from the government’s policy choices.

“This is a critical event for us because as a developing country, we also need to counterbalance the advantages and disadvantages of the decision that we will pursue,” PCAF Officer-in-Charge Sarah Gutierrez-Cayona said on her opening message.

Extend Rice QR

After thorough discussion, the Luzon A cluster moved to extend the rice QR for another two years subject to the impending expiration of the waiver in 2017.

In an open forum, the participants raised their issues and concerns for the development of the industry.

Should the government wished to take the first option, it will provide concessions in exchange for another QR extension.

“If tariffication will be the chosen option, the tariffs that will be collected from the imports should be earmarked to serve as additional funding support to the programs of the government to help the rice farmers to increase their competitiveness,” one of the panelists suggested.

The dialogue were also focused on how our country can produce products with the same quality as the competitors but less expensive.

Among the recommendations were increase rice yield by using hybrid rice, reduce production cost especially labor by increasing mechanization level, reduce marketing cost and margin, increase efficiency of rice mills by increasing capacity utilization, reduce transport cost by improving transport networks and reduce marketing layers to minimize margins by having wholesale markets.

“Extend waiver on QR and no to NFA abolition.”

This is the stand of vice chairperson of National Sectoral Committee – Committee on Food Staples Romeo Royandoyan during the second leg of the consultation.

The Luzon B consultation surfaced several proposed improvements on how to make the decision be more effective.

Kung ako po ay kagaya nung kay Sec. Piñol na bigyan ng dalawang  taon pa para patunayan na kaya nating makipag-compete. Ang pwede nating gawin ay gumamit ng mechanization to improve yield. PHILMECH ay nagtuturo kung paano gumamit ng rice transplanter,” a panelist from PHILMECH said.

The discussions also tackled other factors that will improve the industry such as seeds, credit, irrigation, marketing, land conversion, crop insurance, funding, and subsidy on fertilizer.

The Visayas consultation will be held on October 5, 2016 at Iloilo City.