WTO delays decision on PH's rice import limit

MANILA, Philippines - Local farmers will have to wait until next year to get possible protection against rice imports as the World Trade Organization (WTO) deferred its decision on the Philippines' request to extend its Quantitative Restriction (QR) on rice.

Under WTO rules, the QR allows the Philippines to limit the volume of rice that may be imported into the country from the foreign market.

Extending the QR will ease pressure on Filipino farmers to compete with cheap and subsidized foreign rice.

Rice is a predominant staple in the Philippines, and the primary source of employment for at least 2.4 million farmers, majority of whom are small land-holders living in poverty.

The Philippines appealed with the WTO Council for Trade in Goods (CTG) to extend the QR by another 5 years, but has faced opposition from some of the council's member-countries, particularly the US.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the CTG will decide on the Philippines' appeal in March 2013.

US concern

Alcala said the US government decided to block the Philippines' bid to limit the entry of foreign rice in protest of a local administrative order on meat handling.

Issued in December 2010, the Department of Agriculture's Administrative Order 22 raised safety standards on imported meat and poultry.

However, Alcala said the Philippines has gotten the support of other CTG member-countries.

India, for one, strongly backed the Philippines' request as it greatly values the importance of the QR to food and livelihood security as well as rural development in the Philippines, Alcala noted. - Rappler.com