by Melody M. Aguiba
October 22, 2013
The Department of Agriculture (DA) on October 22 confirmed that for the first time the country is going to export of 100,000 metric tons (MT) of corn grains before year-end as surplus reaches to 234,000 MT on record corn harvest this year of 8.2 million metric tons despite damage wrought by recent typhoons.
“Our computation is we have an excess of 200,000 tons. In 2012, some imported a little quantity of corn because big companies didn’t want to gamble. Now, no one imported because they now believe we could attain self-sufficiency,” DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala announced in a press briefing.
A consensus by various sectors suggest that this is the right time for the Philippines to export corn grains after failing to use up the minimum access volume (MAV) allocation for the year.
MAV allows for lower tariff importation by feed millers or livestock raisers at just 35 percent compared to out-MAV importation of around 50 percent.
DA, though, has to await final approval of the National Food Authority for the exact export volume. A total of 91,000 MT of MAV corn was availed in 2012, just 42 percent of the 216,000 MT allowable MAV.
The Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) believes the corn export is just proper so farmers can access a market that can give them a better price.
“In 2009, the price of corn in the world market was P32 per kilo, but local price was only P10 per kilo, so it’s desirable for us to export. The livestock sector which used to import did not import for the last 16 months because we’re already self-sufficient. (Thus) we should be able to export,” said PMFI President Roger Navarro in the same press briefing.
Navarro said planting of Bt corn has enabled Philippines to boost corn production.
“Before we only had 4.5 million tons of corn production, and it grew to seven million tons because of adoption of this technology. Our population is growing by two percent annually. We will have 10 million more mouths to feed in a few years. Our land is not increasing. So what we can do is adopt the technology,” said Navarro.
Alcala said the government should allow field testing of other genetically modified (GM) crops in order to give scientists a chance to prove safety of these crops.
“There’s a program on Bt talong and Golden Rice that scientists study. For as long as testing is within contained environment, it’s not right for us to stop it,” said Alcala.
Alcala acknowledged the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals on a writ of kalikasan that stops field testing of the GM Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant.
Yet, he said anyone may even be stopping a favorable benefit of the crop in the future if field testing of GM crops are ordered prohibited.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t give them a chance to prove it, we’re stopping development for the future. If we didn’t allow them to produce diatabs, it’s like saying we should only use charcoal (uling) to cure (diarrhea),” said Alcala.
DA affirms it will respect decision of farmers to plant GM crops.
“We don’t really have any problem with GM corn except that those in Negros wanted a ‘no GM policy.’ But there are farmers that are open to it. Farmers in Isabela are open to it. We give importance to their decision. That’s their call,” he said.
DA expects an all-time high corn harvest this year of 8.213 million MT of corn, creating a surplus of 234,000 MT. But to ensure quality, export must just be around 100,000 MT.
Photo credit: www.mb.com.ph