Farmers: Profit-driven private sector non-solution to rice self sufficiency

A FARMERS group scored the government for passing on to the private sector the provision of post-harvest facilities needed by the farmers including the necessary support services for farmers to improve their livelihoods.

Bantay Bigas said  the government should not  pass on its responsibilities to the private sectors. The government must ensure that the farmers are not exploited by scrupulous and profit-oriented private businesses”, said Bantay Bigas spokesperson Lita Mariano.

Mariano is reacting to the call made by Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala to the private sector in a rice industry forum last June 27, 2012 held at the Banco De Oro (BDO) corporate headquarters, in Makati City, where he presented the Aquino administration’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP).

The forum was attended by top officials of BDO, Land Bank of the Philippines, and rice industry agribusinessmen. Secretary Alcala enjoined the private sector to consider investing in grains handling and processing, and farm services outsourcing that could result in more efficient rice production, lesser post-harvest losses, and more profitable operations.

“As it is, the Philippines’ rice industry is under the control of private traders and landowners who have monopoly control over rice farms, rice seeds and inputs, credit and capital including post-harvest facilities as rice mills and warehouses. They control prices of the country’s basic staple from the farm to the market while the rice farmers remain indebted and poor”, Mariano said.

“Hunger and poverty remain widespread among the country’s primary food producers. They cannot even afford to buy what they have produced. This is because government has privatized the country’s rice industry early on until today and as such, it is under private control and monopoly”, Mariano also said.

The National Food Authority (NFA) for instance incurred debts importing rice instead of buying palay from Filipino farmers as should be its mandate, procuring 10% of local palay production. It sells the imported rice at subsidized prices to private traders who in turn sell these at commercial prices to consumers, including the poor farmers.

Private traders buy and sell more than 90% of the country’s local production and supply of commercial rice. Thailand, Vietnam, including the US and EU all maintained government support and subsidy for their farmers and agriculture.

“The Philippines can never attain rice self-sufficiency unless the Philippine government does it part well – support the country’s primary food producers through capital and inputs subsidies, develop the rice industry, implement genuine agrarian reform program. Otherwise, the Philippines will remain the number one importer of rice in the world”,  Mariano said.

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