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The Present Rice Crisis in The Philippines

by Pesante-USA Saturday, Mar. 29, 2008 at 3:25 PM
magsasakapil@hotmail.com 213-241-0906 1610 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Philippine Peasant Support Network (Pesante)-USA, a Filipino farmers, environmental and human rights advocacy group based in Los Angeles expressed dismay over the US-Arroyo regime’s way of solving the present rice crisis in the former rice producing nation of the Philippines. The Philippine government is going to buy two million metric tons of rice abroad at a cost of $600 or P24,600 per metric ton, that will be P49.2 billion, which is 146 times than the Philippines annual post-harvest budget. President Arroyo already released P1.5 billion to boost rice production especially in the top 10 poorest provinces. The rice will be imported- from of all places-- the United States and Vietnam.

Article

The Present Rice Crisis in the Philippines

By Arturo P. Garcia
Philippine Pesant Support Network(Pesante)-USA
March 28, 2008

Los Angeles-- The Philippine Peasant Support Network (Pesante)-USA, a Filipino farmers, environmental and human rights advocacy group based in Los Angeles expressed dismay over the US-Arroyo regime’s way of solving the present rice crisis in the former rice producing nation of the Philippines.

The Philippine government is going to buy two million metric tons of rice abroad at a cost of $600 or P24,600 per metric ton, that will be P49.2 billion, which is 146 times than the Philippines annual post-harvest budget.

President Arroyo already released P1.5 billion to boost rice production especially in the top 10 poorest provinces. The rice will be imported- from of all places-- the United States and Vietnam.

Fertile Grounds for The Rice Crisis

For Pesante-USA, the problem started when government implemented “ globalization” and IMF-dictated land use and crop conversion. It has dramatically reduced the capacity to feed the Filipinos rough self-sufficient food production since 1964. The Philippines has always been a semi-colonail and semi-feudal colony of the the United States even after having a nominal independece 1n 1946.

The latest Census of Agriculture shows that the farm area for palay
( unhusked rice harvest) fell by 86,606 hectares between 1991 and 2002. Corn, which like palay is also a staple crop, saw its farm area contract by 298,064 hectares. Consequently, the country needs to rely on outside sources for local food needs. This aggravates the fact that real agrarian reform or land reform is absent in island nation. More agricultural lands have been converted to capital land use like real estate, agri-corporations and others land use.

From a yearly surplus of $667.5 million in food trade from 1980 to 1994, the Philippines has have been posting an annual deficit of $724.6 million from 1995 to 2006. Under the Arroyo administration, yearly food trade deficit is pegged at $719.7 million.

The US-Arroyo government did not spend tax pesos on irrigation, so more lands can be opened up for multiyear cropping; on post-harvest facilities, so palay already produced will not be wasted; and be just dried along the roads. So palay and rice can be cheaply brought to the markets.

So Much Waste in the Midst of Plenty

Pesante is aware that 15 percent of the country’s palay harvest are lost to lack of dryers, warehouses, and post-harvest facilities, a volume that could feed 12.5 million Filipinos for a year. It scored the inefficiency of the National Food Administration (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA)

The NFA suppose to buy palay from the farmers at a lower cost. But because the NFA corruption. The farmers chose to sell it to the private rice traders who in turn stock pile the rice into their bodegas and sell it at higher price. This turn into an artificial rice crisis like in 1990’s when the Chinese rice cartel hoarded rice in the bodegas in Binondo.

NFA was mandated to help the Filipino farmers by buying palay and other grain products like corn, mongo and beans at lower prices. It has an allocation of P 43 million ($ 1 B) a year to alliviate the farmers plight. But still the food crisis becomes worse every year.

The Philippines used to be self-sufficient in rice and other agricultural product. The Philippines used to be the envy of other Asian countries when it come to agriculture.

The Philippines in the first place is a rice eating nation. The Filipinos consume 33,000 tons of rice per day. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was based in the Philippines and helped other Asian countries become self-sufficient. Now the Philippines is Asia’s waste basket.

The Senate President studies shows that the equivalent of 1.494 million metric tons, or 1.494 billion kilos, of rice was wasted in 2006, when national palay harvest only reached 15.327 million metric tons.

Because an average Filipino consumes 118.7 kilos of rice annually, the rice lost would have been able to meet the rice needs of Metro Manila for one year.

Pesante-USA also pointed out that the country is also paying a high price for neglecting palay post-harvest technology. It is a well known fact that the value of such rice losses amounted to a staggering P37.3 billion, based on the prevailing P25 per kilo price of the national staple.

Pesante also scored the fact that the 2008 national budget allocated a measly” P336 million for post-harvest facilities, which is less than 1 percent of our projected rice import bill this year.

Chronic Political and Rice Crisis- Real

That is why we have chronic rice crisis. The first experienced by the Filipinos was during the Diosdado Macapagal presidency in 1964. That was the first rice crisis that the Philippines experienced after the second world war. She is the father of the present president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

People believed that that the rice crisis of 1964 was worst than the Japanese times when the Japanese invaders confiscated Philippine rice to fed to the Japanese in the mainland.. That is why Marcos won the elections of 1965 because of the rice crisis.

In 1973 during the Marcos dictatorship there was a rice crisis and the people were supported by the corn harvest. This was due to the privatization of the irrigation system by the Marcos fascist regime all over the nation. The farmers reacted by not planting rice during the plating season to avoid payment for irrigation that themselves built but the government privatized.

In the 1990’s the rice crisis became a political crisis but the Aquino regime solved it also by importation and cracking down on the Binondo rice cartel.

Will the present rice crisis unmake the Arroyo presidency ? Will it explode into a political crisis or just another Arroyo’s tactic of brinkmanship.

Let us all watch and observe how the different forces meet this challenge.


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