So there is really no urgent reason for rice prices to increase in the world market. The rice price spikes seem to stem from speculation. In the U.S., according to a report by GMANews.TV, the price of rice, at commodity futures markets, in contracts for delivery in July, jumped by 62 cents “as investors bet that surging world demand will continue to pressure already dwindling stockpiles” (italics mine).
It is worth noting that only 5 to 6 percent of world rice production is traded internationally. More than 95 percent of the rice produced is consumed by the producing countries themselves. The implication is that prices of rice in the international market could not and should not impact significantly on local prices because it constituted a very small percentage of local consumption.
Another point worth pondering is that: why did the Philippines, an agricultural and rice producing country, become one of the top importers of rice? The Philippines is planning to import 2.1 million metric tons this year surpassed only by the 2.3 metric tons average rice imports of Indonesia – the 4th most populous country in the world- from 1998-2002. The Philippines was not even listed by UNCTAD as among the main importers of rice from 1998-2002.
Has production gone that bad or is someone making money out of rice imports? In both situations, the Arroyo government is to blame: either it let local rice production deteriorate so badly or it is making money out of imports as former Speaker Jose de Venecia has revealed.
If there is no shortage, locally and internationally, and no compelling reason for the increases in rice prices and yet it is happening then somebody is making a hefty profit out of it at the expense of the majority of the Filipino people.
For how can the 65 million Filipinos who, according to IBON Foundation, live on P96 ($2.28 at an exchange rate of $1=P42.04) or less per day, afford rice now costing more than P40 ($0.95) per kilo? Moreso, how can the poorest 5.2 million households whose incomes are chronically insufficient for their spending afford the increases in rice prices?
That is why more and more people line up under the scorching sun to be able to buy rice at the subsidized price of P18.25 ($0.43) per kilo. And this is not even enough as subsidized rice being sold by NFA outlets is very limited. Most are forced to either buy commercial rice, which they cannot afford, or cut down their consumption of rice, the staple of Filipinos.
Profiteering amid widespread hunger and poverty is terribly disgusting and we should not allow this to continue. Better still, we should not let this government, which is responsible for the worsening poverty and for making it possible for unscrupulous elements, local and foreign, from within and outside the government to profit from the people’s desperate situation, to continue. (Bulatlat.com)