Traders considered to be the main beneficiaries of the liberalization of food imports

FARMERS and Ffishermen do not reap the benefitsFit is the liberalization of food imports, much of the value of which is captured by traders, participants at a food security forum said on Monday.

“The losses of farmers are significant and far outweigh the gains of consumers,” said national director Raul Q. Montemayor of the Federation of Free Farmers in his virtual presentation. “The pro-import policy and the government’s bias towards consumers have exacerbated the problems for farmers. “

At the forum hosted by Tugon Kabuhayan, Montemayor said the rice pricing law has greatly benefited importers and traders while subjecting farmers to intense competition from imports, putting pressure on their incomes.

“There is no significant improvement in production volume, yield, production cost and competitiveness despite the support of the Rice Competitiveness Improvement Fund (RCEF) and tariff revenues”, he said, referring to some of the features of the law, which calls for rice. imports to pay tariffs which are then used to finance programs that make domestic farmers more productive.

“We haven’t seen any significant changes since the law was passed. In the two years the law came into force it resulted in a loss of £ 56bn for our farmers. This should have lowered the retail price and passed the savings on to consumers. Instead, importers and traders pocketed the difference, ”Montemayor added.

The Philippine Statistics Authority estimates that 31.6% of farmers and 26.2% of fishermen are classified as poor. These percentages are equivalent to around 5.5 million farmers and 4.6 million fishermen.

Philippine Tilapia Stakeholders Association president Jon G. Juico said imports had affected fishermen as well.

“The farm gate price of tilapia in central Luzon is around 64 to 65 pesos, compared to 80 to 85 pesos last year. This is why so many fishermen here in central Luzon cannot compete and are getting more into debt, ”said Juico. “We used to harvest twice a year, but now, due to the pandemic, we only harvest once a year. Tilapia is still abundant here in central Luzon, but if this trend continues, many fish farmers will stop producing.

In October, 60,000 metric tonnes (MT) of galunggong (round scaoude) and mackerel were imported and sold in public markets. The government allowed imports to ensure adequate supplies during the three-month shutdown season and to control inflation.

Prudenciano U. Gordoncillo, senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said producers need to diversify in order to better resist imports.

Gordoncillo added that the Philippines is focusing too much on rice and farmers need to explore other crops.

“Maize was the main source of carbohydrates in Visayas and Mindanao, and then it was replaced by rice,” he said. “But rice is harder and more expensive to produce than corn. Nutrition side, corn, cassava, gabi, and rice are the same. They are all carbohydrates. We shouldn’t rely on just one product. – Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

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