Group renews call for corn export liberalization


A GROUP of local corn growers on Monday renewed a call for the creation of an export policy on yellow corn that will allow for a “truly” liberalized trade of the commodity.

Roger Navarro, president of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PhilMaize), asked the National Food Authority (NFA) to act on the group’s request for free market movement of yellow corn and allow local growers to finally export the grain.

“Under the current policy, the NFA still restricts export of the grains, which is inconsistent with the idea of liberalized trade under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta),” Navarro told reporters.

The official said that with the export policy in place, corn stakeholders would be encouraged to invest, thus making the sector more competitive with the country’s Asean neighbors.

Corn farmers have long lobbied for an export policy that would allow them to sell their produce and take advantage whenever there is an upward tick in prices in the international market.

The government, however, restricts the commercial export of yellow corn until there is firm data confirming a production surplus.

Six months since taking over the helm of the NFA, Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Modernization (PAFSAM) Secretary Francis Pangilinan has yet to act on the corn growers’ resolution.

National corn output reached 7.37 million metric tons last year, making the country “practically self-sufficient” in the commodity and an exporter at some point through a trial shipment of corn silage to South Korea.

From January-June 2014, corn production reached 3.48 million MT, up by 4.7 percent from last year’s level because of yield improvement and harvest area expansion.

For 2014, the National Corn Program expects corn output to increase by 3.1 percent. At that rate, Navarro said local corn growers would have the capability to export the grains, noting that production has continued to hit record levels over the past three years.

“We want to export 100,000 to 300,000 metric tons. Our target destinations are Taiwan and South Korea,” he said.

“We hope that we will be given the chance to export our grains, just like that of the rice industry, which is allowed to export their organic rice varieties,” he added.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has reiterated his support for the corn industry, saying he would discuss the matter with the NFA and with Pangilinan.

In January, Alcala said the DA would propose to the NFA Council that local farmers be allowed to export corn given the anticipated surplus, but this was prior to Pangilinan’s takeover of the NFA.

The DA chief said that allowing local growers to export their produce would help stabilize supply, and provide the industry with “elbow room” before full implementation of Afta by 2015.

The agriculture department earlier said that the government is positioning the country to be a major exporter of corn in the Southeast Asian region within the next three years.
James Konstantin Galvez


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