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Japan asked to open up rice market to RP, ASEAN
The ASEAN-Japan Partnerships Network (AJPN) is pressing Japan to open up its rice market to developing countries like the Philippines which can produce quality organic rice as a viable alternative to its rice import sources — US, Canada, and Australia.

Roel R. Ravanera, AJPN program manager, said Japan is hoped to import rice from developing countries as part of its poverty reduction effort as it establishes leadership position in the region.

“Japan imports 70 percent of its rice from the US, Canada, Australia. We’re telling them, ‘Why don’t you consider importing rice from poorer nations?’”

“Asia is the fastest growing region in the world, and Japan can take the lead here if it wants to build regional cooperation. It (Philippine export) is possible because we have the production, and they have the demand,” he said in an interview during a Mindanao Peace Program conference in Davao.

Jerry E. Pacturan, Philippine Development Assistance Program (PDAP) managing director, said organic rice is presently one of the Philippines’ high potential export products as demand in developed countries like Japan is soaring with consumer health awareness.

“Before organic technology was only for sustainable agriculture. Now we can use sustainable agriculture for creating people’s livelihood and increasing income because you have a market for it,” he said.

In the Philippines alone, organic rice consumption rose 10 times to 1,000 sacks per month from 100 sacks about two years ago, Pacturan said.

Organic rice area that is immediately available is placed at 32,000 hectares which at a modest yield of four to six metric tons (MT) per hectare will produce 256,000 to 384,000 MT yearly for two croppings per year.

Ravanera said the Philippines can ask Japan for this market access in a bilateral agreement through the on-going Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement. Yet, he said a collaborative act between AJPN members including India and Indonesia which produce organic rice can strengthen poorer nations’ trading position.

“Agriculture is sensitive in Japan. If it’s quality rice, they’re willing to buy that, and we can compete. AJPN can come up with a regional standard because our importation may be blocked by importing countries without this,” he said.

AJPN was founded in an aim to support the UN program for poverty reduction which targeted to reduce by one-half worldwide poverty by 2015. Its members are the Philippines, Japan, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Ravanera said AJPN is also asking Japan to extend grants to the Philippines to support organic agriculture rather than to give fertilizer grants reaching to P1 billion yearly that supply chemicalbased fertilizer such as urea or ammonium sulphate.
MGR Archive 19.12.2004
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