Philippines. Group warns vs rice importation


The Duterte government’s decision to boost imports to solve the rice crisis will just threaten the country’s rice self-sufficiency, a group warned yesterday.

Bantay Bigas explained that importing more rice will affect the livelihood of Filipino farmers as rice imports will compete with local produce to the disadvantage of poor Filipino farmers.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has obliged the Philippines to import rice even if the country does not need it as part of its commitment to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, which has liberalized the agriculture industries of developing countries.

Under the law, the National Food Authority (NFA) is tasked to buy the palay produced by local farmers as buffer stock for calamities and as a stabilizer in the market to avoid jacking up the prices of commercial rice.

President Duterte allowed the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice to replenish the NFA’s depleted rice inventory.

Bantay Bigas urged the NFA to work toward the attainment of genuine rice self-sufficiency and food security in the country instead of further liberalizing the rice industry by allowing more importation.

“Duterte’s approval of the new batch of 250,000 metric tons of rice to be imported as demanded by NFA administrator Jason Aquino is unfavorable to the country’s pursuit of rice self-sufficiency. The country is 95 percent self-sufficient in rice since last year,” said Cathy Estavillo, spokesperson for Bantay Bigas.

“We reiterate that the NFA should procure locally produced palay as solution to the agency’s lingering claim of depleting rice stocks,” the group added.

Bantay Bigas also pointed out that the NFA is allocated P7 billion for palay procurement for 2018 and appropriate use of the fund will enable the NFA to challenge the control of rice traders.

“We urge the NFA to raise the palay price to at least P20 per kilo. Its budget could procure around 350,000 metric tons of palay, to result in 227,500 MT or 4.5 million bags of rice, sufficient for a seven-day buffer stock,” said Zen Soriano, chair of the National Federation of Peasant Women.


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