• Corn exports eyed for Southeast Asia

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    The Department of Agriculture (DA) will propose to the National Food Authority (NFA) Council to finally allow the export of corn grains by local farmers, because of the anticipated surplus in supply.

    Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that allowing local growers to export their produce would help stabilize supply, and provide the industry with an “elbow room” before full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) by 2015. Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    “We will advice the NFA Council to allow the export of corn grains, so that they’ll have the advantage in terms of trading with other countries, especially on corn grains,” Alcala told reporters.

    “We must allow shipments of corn grains so that farmers will not be discouraged to plant if ever there is a glut in production, which may result to lower prices,” he added.

    Earlier, Alcala said that the government is now positioning the Philippines to be one of the major exporters of corn in the Southeast Asian region within the next three years.

    “While we are already self-sufficient, we are reviewing our production targets because we need to expand corn cultivation areas because the livestock sector is growing, and we need to align it with the Asean Free Trade Area,” Alcala said.

    In fact, he said that demand for corn from local livestock and poultry sectors continued to increase, as Korea opened its doors for chicken export, while Japan allowed shipments of peking ducks from the Philippines.

    Besides catering to the local market, Alcala said that the Philippines is looking at Malaysia as one of the major destinations of corn shipments. To date, Malaysia is importing corn from the United States.

    “We have the capability to produce all year round. We must take advantage of our proximity to make our farmers more competitive come AFTA,” he said.

    For this year, Alcala said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is investing heavily on infrastructure and more post-harvest facilities to prepare the corn industry for trade liberalization.

    The Philippines is a signatory to the AFTA, which will take full effect in 2015. The agreement aims to bring down to zero the duties on products coming from Asean countries.

    In 2013, the country’s corn production dropped by 0.4 percent to 7.38 million metric tons from 7.1 million MT in the previous year, because of the contraction in harvest area as a result of insufficient soil moisture in the first half of the year, and damage caused by strong typhoons in the second half of the year.

    But the DA expects production to bounce back strong this year, noting that production is expected to increase 9.8 percent to 3.65 million MT in the first semester of 2014.

    “We must hit higher level of production in the corn sector so that we will be able to meet the growing needs of the local livestock and poultry sectors, and take advantage of the global market,” he added.

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