In fact, Prajes stressed, this scenario is already taking shape steadily though slowly in small scale, in a number of areas in the region and country, where poor people are forced to steal and loot some warehouses and establishments because they could not bear going hungry or scampering for food for days.
“No matter what and how the government justifies the food insecurity in the country, it cannot hide the fact that rice and other basic food items in the province and country are getting scarcer and expensive due to the collapsing agricultural production in the country and the people’s lack of capacity to buy what they need,” Prajes said.
The urban poor leader noted that in all markets the prices of rice, fish, meat and other basic consumer goods have recently soared, making them inaccessible to common families who are mostly among the urban poor.
She also scored the government’s inability to curb the food crisis and rise in prices of prime commodities.
“First, because they are just the result of government’s bias against developing and protecting the country’s agriculture from the onslaughts of imported cheap agricultural products; and second, its inutility to control the rapacity of the big food traders, importers-exporters, and transnational agri-business companies,” she said.
Prajes’ sentiments were echoed by Isidro Castillo, spokesperson of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) who said that “the rice crisis had happened in the 1970s, 1980s, and mid-1990s, and is bound to happen again and again because the government gives more premium to production of high value crops for export than food production for internal food security.”
The problem of food insecurity is compounded by the people’s lack of purchasing power due to massive unemployment, landlessness and lack of basic social services from the government, Castillo said.
Castillo said that the last time that Negros had a serious rice crisis was in the middle of the 1990s. “That situation was dreaded by many because people in urban and rural areas were forced to steal, loot warehouses and commercial establishments, ate in restaurants and eateries without paying, and stormed local government units demanding food support and farm implements; there was practically anarchy,” Castillo said.
He said the situation has not improved since then. “In fact, it has even worsened despite claims by the local government units that they have been doing much in their basic services, employment generation, and sustainable agricultural production,” he added.
In a monocrop sugar-based economy like Negros, the food situation does not improve and is unlikely to make any progress because much of the lands are in the hands of the few, and cash-crop production is geared mainly for market and exports, Castillo stressed.
Prajes said that unless the government gives focus on employment generation, protection of workers’ security of tenure, delivery of basic services, and clamp down on exploitative businesses, the rice shortage and higher prices of basic commodities will only further worsen things.
Castillo affirmed Prajes and added that “the only way out of this food crisis is for the government to start seriously carrying out genuine land reform, give provision for support services, and undertake rural industrialization.” (Bulatlat.com)