Extended low tariffs for pork, rice seen needed, but farm lobby says traders cornering benefits

A PROPOSAL to extend lowered tariffs for pork, rice, corn, and coal will temper the effects of surging inflation, the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) said.  

Kristine F. Alcantara, FEF fellow, said during a hearing of the Tariff Commission (TC) on Wednesday that extending the effectivity of Executive Order (EO) No. 171 would help rein in food prices.  

The FEF is seeking to extend EO 171 until the end of 2023, which the TC must agree to.

“The current inflation rate of the Philippines is at 7.7%. Considering that the main source of Philippine inflation is food, there is much more of a need to level or counteract the rising cost of prices by simply extending the modification of the tariff lines or at least postpone it for a bit,” Ms. Alcantara said.

According to Ms. Alcantara, an extension would bolster food security and protect consumers.

“We wish that the TC would recommend the extension of the (reduced) tariffs as contained in EO 171 primarily because the reason for which order has been issued has not yet gone away… the effects of the Ukraine-Russia crisis are expected to extend until next year,” Ms. Alcantara said.  

“If there is still major disruption in the global supply chain, then we should also, like other countries, counteract this directly by helping our consumers,” she added.

EO 171 is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.

Signed in May, the EO lowered the tariff rates on pork within the minimum access volume quota to 15% from 30%, while pork imports beyond the quota are charged 25% instead of 40%.

Tariffs for in-quota rice imports were set at 35%, with those beyond the quota being charged 50%.  

The EO also reduced the tariff rates of in-quota corn imports to 5% from 35% and those beyond the quota to 15% from 50%.

The order also imposed zero duties on coal imports, from 7% previously.

Jayson H. Cainglet, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura executive director, said the impact of reduced tariffs on farmers must be considered.

“ reducing tariff, you’re reducing government revenue that would have benefited people. Let’s give urgent attention to the agriculture sector…How can you reduce tariffs if the producers will be affected?” Mr. Cainglet said.

National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc. President Chester Warren Y. Tan said an extension of the low-tariff regime will force the hog industry to withdraw from operations, affecting supply.

“We started to repopulate our hog population starting late last year (on the assumption that) EO 171 will end on Dec. 31. If there is another extension, (hog raisers) might (exit the industry). That is our worry. We don’t want any extension,” Mr. Tan said.

Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said consumers and farmers are not benefiting from lower tariffs.

“Consumers are not benefiting… Farmers are suffering. It is only the importers and traders who are happy,” Mr. Montemayor said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave