PHL as rice exporter, far from reality- solon

A FARMER solon said President Benigno Aquino III’s pronouncement that the country could attain rice self-sufficiency and possibly become a rice exporter next year is far from reality and nearly impossible.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, the president said the National Food Authority (NFA) brought 860,000 metric tons (MT) last year from the 1.3 million MT bought in 2011, while rice import targets for 2012 was further reduced to 500,000 MT.

“The President did not mention that out of the 500,000 MT total volume of target rice imports for this year, 380,000 MT will be brought in by private traders and cooperatives,” Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano said.

“There can be no genuine rice self-sufficiency as long as the local 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,” said Mariano, also the convenor of Bantay Bigas, a rice price monitor watchdog.

“Last month, the NFA Council decided to order 120,000 MT of rice from Vietnman-owned Vinafood 2 under a government-to-government arrangement. The rice purchase was priced at $470 per MT. The NFA persists with its policy of massive rice importation instead of buying the 10% local palay production from local rice farmers,” said Mariano.

“The President also failed to mention that DAR Secretary Proceso Alcala is calling on the private sector to consider investing in grains handling and processing, and farm services outsourcing for more profitable operations. In effect, DAR calls for the strengthening of a profit-driven private sector in the rice industry,” said Mariano.

“Instead of buying palay from farmers, the NFA procures imported rice and sells it 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.”

“We are buying rice from Thailand and Vietnam, rice producing countries that provides subsidy for their farmers and agriculture.” “To achieve rice self-sufficiency, the government must support the country’s primary food producers through capital and inputs subsidies, develop the rice industry, implement genuine agrarian reform program,” Mariano said.

“With the existing policies implemented by DAR and NFA, the Philippines will remain the number one importer of rice in the world,” he said.

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