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Industry groups call for agri liberalization

Local industry groups are calling on government to liberalize the agriculture sector to ensure food sufficiency.

 Groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham) and Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, Inc. (CCAP) want the local agriculture sector to become more open to foreign trade and investments in order to keep food affordable and safe.

This will also enable the agriculture sector to create more jobs for the rural population.

Other groups supporting the call include Cargill Philippines, Inc., Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc., Fisheries and Aquaculture Board, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Meat Importers and Traders Association, and Philippine Association of Flour Millers, Inc. (PAFMIL).

They said that when local food production falls short of demand, imported food helps to dampen food price inflation which eats up the purchasing power of Filipino consumers.  

“Second, predictable imports encourage investments in downstream industries diversify and grow in situations that local agricultural inputs are inadequate for their requirements,” the groups said.  

“Finally, the competition local producers’ face from imported products has the potential of introducing innovations in local agriculture, needed for stronger and competitive growth,” they added.

The groups likewise said government authorities must follow closely the internationally agreed disciplines in invoking food safety import regulations, such as the principles of transparency and non-discrimination.

“If the Department of Agriculture (DA) has to restrict the entry of imports, authorities have to provide stakeholders with the reasons why, with supporting scientific data from their assessments of the risk, and information that the measures taken are the least trade restrictive to effectively address the risk,” the groups said.

They also urged the government to take an inventory of all laws and regulations, which discourage entry of foreign investments in the sector, and take away such unnecessary restrictions.

The groups’ call came a week after groups of local food producers said they are now experiencing the worst crisis in years amid the pandemic, lack of government support, and the DA’s pro-importation stance.

United Broiler Raisers’ Association (UBRA) President Bong Inciong said the agriculture sector is being managed by government solely based on suggestions of economists and not the country’s food producers.

Recently, more than 10 agriculture groups, composed of fishers and farmers, boycotted the National Food Security Summit organized by DA.

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