By the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
Manila, Philippines-The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) raised that government is exaggerating the effects of “El Nino” to justify huge increases in rice imports, estimated to reach 3 million metric tons (MT) exceeding the previous limit of 2.4 million MT. Also, the group said that non-irrigation is a chronic problem in rice cultivation ever since and should not be totally blamed to “El Nino.” The group said that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has only irrigated 1.4 million hectares or 46% of the total irrigable lands of 3.1 million has. in the country.
“Dry season is a classic problem of the peasants during farming. The problem is not totally the climate but majorly the absence of irrigation facilities and support to the farmers. NIA has negligible irrigation projects and some are just on paper, worse, some are being charged even their farms are not irrigated,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.
KMP said that though the country was faced with incessant typhoons, agricultural rice output in 2009 has no dramatic shortfall, 10.56 million MT from 10.93 million MT in 2008, a 362,000 MT fall. It is also higher than 2007 level of 10.56 million MT.
The group also said that 2009 farmgate price of rice based on Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) was pegged at P14.66 per kg, only a P0.74 or 5.32% increase from 2008 price of P13.92 per kg. This figures show that a significant decline did not occur as farmgate price only increased minimally compared to the increase of 2008 of P2.71 per kg or 24.17% from 2007 price of P11.21 per kg. The group said that it is evident that the monopsony of traders on bulk supply of rice depress farmgate prices to squeeze huge profits in selling rice.
“If there was a market-shaking decline, the farmgate prices should have increase appropriately. But government data showed that traders had the power to keep the buying price down, meaning there is no decline in supply,” said Ramos.
“The government is plainly portraying a doomsday picture of our rice supply to sway public opinion towards importation. The fundamentals are that farmers own no lands and traders use their political and economic power to depress farm products. Also, massive imports have empowered traders to further underprice palay from farmers,” Ramos said.
The group also said that the price of local rice should be at the range of P29.32 per kg, in contrast to Vietnam rice of P20.75 to P26.28 per kg ($1=P41.115) based on quotes of Vietnames exporters of $450 to $570 per MT on end of January 2010. While Thailand rice pegs at P21.21 to P27.25 per kg based on Int’l. Rice Research Institute (IRRI) prices of $460 to $591 per MT on December 2009.
“Imported rice already nears the price of local rice even before it reaches the country. When transport and other costs are to be added, it would surely jack up and the landing price would surely be more expensive than locally-produced rice, so definitely, the National Food Authority (NFA) imports rice not because it is cheaper, but to follow the government’s policy of liberalization and commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO),” said Ramos.
Moreover, the group said that import levels are eating up a big chunk of the share in the national consumption, thus, shattering food security and developing food dependency from outside sources. In 2008, import rice compose 16% of the consumed rice, a 26.8% increase from its 2007 share of 12.3%.
“NFA should purchase more of the local as it would help the country’s rice farmers, unlike importation where we already throw our dollars outside the economy, it even competes with the locally-produced. The government should pull back the effects of liberalization and focus on improving agriculture for food production and not for export. Without food security, people would definitely revolt to find one,” he said. #