Corn growers said the country can attain self-sufficiency in corn this year if the government provides policy support to encourage local corn farmers to continue increasing their productivity.
In an interview with The STAR, Philippine Maize Federation (Philmaize) president Roger Navarro said “government must send a strong message of truly helping and rewarding our local farmers who were able to supply the local demand at the height of the P20 per kilogram international price of corn even while the local price of corn was just P10 per kilogram and there was a spike in fertilizer prices.”
Last year, Navarro pointed out, local corn farmers were able to supply 94 percent of the requirement.
According to Navarro, “we need to encourage local corn farmers to plant at this time when international commodity prices are going down.”
He said commodity prices are not expected until the latter part of 2009.
“We must therefore keep our local production sufficiency level this year,” he said, adding “we will continue to rally to increase productivity this year and achieve 100 percent sufficiency.”
To achieve this Navarro said, “we… need government to be consistent in policy support.”
One area of support that Philmaize continues to lobby for is the scrapping of tax and duty-free corn imports. The import of corn and other substitutes has always been a sore point between local corn farmers and feedmillers.
In the past, before the advent of biofuels and the subsequent demand for corn for biofuel production, international corn prices were so much lower than local corn.
Feedmillers, thus, were able to import corn.
However, in recent years, international corn prices have shot up, making locally grown corn more competitive.
However, just recently, corn growers received a setback when the government decided to temporarily remove for six months the tariff on feedwheat, a substitute for corn in feed manufacturing.
Although Philmaize’s initial request for the exclusion of feedwheat from the tariff removal has been rejected by Malacañang, Navarro reiterated the need for government policy support for such tariff removal or reduction.
Revised corn production for 2008 is projected at only 6.947 million metric tons from the earlier targeted 7.37 million MT.–Marianne V. Go, Philippine Star