Farmers group calls for NFA chief’s head
THE national farmers organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) urged the National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Lito Banayo to stop lying about the agency’s main reason of the price hike.
The group said that the price hike is not due to serve the interest of rice-cultivating farmers but to counter the effects of overpriced imported rice and the questionable payments of loans that rake up the agency’s funds.
“Banayo is transforming the NFA to be profit-driven rather than fulfilling its mandate to support rice-producing farmers and delivering affordable rice to poor Filipino consumers,” Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General said in a press statement.
KMP also criticized Banayo of making the farmgate price as an excuse to increase the price of NFA rice. The group said that in 2009, data from his agency reported that imported rice in 2009 reached to 1.575 million metric tons, while palay procurement only reached to 463,054 metric tons that would result to about 300,985 metric tons at 65% milling rate. NFA rice supply for 2009 would total to roughly 1.876 million metric tons, making the local rice share to only 16% and the imported rice with the bulky 84%.
“Banayo is lying to his teeth when he said that the price hike is to serve the Filipino rice farmers. Local rice is very little of the NFA stock which is majorly imported. Based on NFA data, as of August this year, imported rice already reach 2.128 million metric tons while palay procurement as of June only reached to 193,174 metric tons or roughly 125,563 metric tons at 65% milling rate. Thus, the price hike dominantly involves the imported rice and not the locally produced,” Ramos said.
KMP also said that based on the audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) in 2005, NFA is obliged to pay local and foreign loans more than P18 billion per year. The biggest among payment to local loans is with Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to more than P11 billion while among foreign is the $5 million loan through the US Public Law 480 (USPL 480) also known as Food for Peace program in 1996 paid in installment until 2016 at P575 million per year. The group also said that the price hike is in line with the total privatization program of NFA and withdrawal of its support to local rice producers.
“These so-called liabilities of the NFA are not caused by the Filipino farmers as producers and poor as consumers. These were caused by foreign subservience of past governments such as the implementation of World Trade Organization (WTO) policies and liberalization of agriculture. It is contrary to the interest of the Filipino people to import rice at unfavorable prices, flooding the local market and snatching significant market share from the locally produced. Now, the Aquino government is passing the burden to the poor Filipinos,” Ramos said.
KMP reminded Banayo to review the data of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) that from 2004 to 2009, local rice production share to the gross rice supply declined from 74% to 70%, thus, imported rice is dramatically chunking the local rice market.
“Banayo is all talk as if his statements are well-grounded. He has yet to do anything with the over-importation of rice and now he has hiked the price of NFA rice. President Aquino is totally responsible for this food crisis as he chopped off a significant share of the NFA budget and transferred to the Conditional Cash Transfer program,” Ramos said.
Instead of the hike, the group urged the NFA to rollback the price to P14 per kg and use the transferred budget for the CCT program to subsidize the price. The group demanded president Aquino to restore the NFA budget, subsidize rice production and its consumer price.
“If the price of NFA rice continues to be pegged at P27 per kg, poor Filipinos would remember this as president Aquino’s christmas gift and a concrete proof that he is anti-poor and anti-people. The country’s poor should unite and act together to oppose Aquino’s program,” he added.