Rice Importation Hurts Local Farmers, Costs NFA Billions in Losses

In April this year, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo increased the P0.50 incentive to farmers selling palay to the NFA to P5.50 per kilogram. Of the P17 ($0.365) per kilogram buying price of the NFA for clean and dry palay, farmers receive only P11.50 ($0.247) as cash payment and P5.50 ($0.118) as incentive.

Cosico said farmers who sell at least 50 kilograms are given P1,800 ($38.66) as subsidy for fertilizers.

In 2007, the NFA absorbed only 0.19 percent of the total local palay production of 16.237 million MT.

Not for poor farmers

Willy Marbella Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Philippine Peasant Movement) deputy secretary general said farm gate prices of palay remain low even as the cost of production increases.

Marbella said poor farmers cannot afford to sell their produce to the NFA and cannot avail of the subsidy on fertilizers. Landless peasants, he said, have to pay for land rent, interest payments for debts they incurred, and also have to shoulder all the expenses in production, said Marbella.

Cosico said that even with the NFA’s mobile procurement, poor farmers cannot sell their produce to the NFA. “Wala na rin silang maibenta… napunta na sa trader na pinagkautangan ng binhi at abono.” (They have nothing to sell…their produce goes to the trader from whom they loaned the seeds and fertilizers.)

Basic problems

Marbella said the Arroyo government should address the Filipino farmers’ basic problem of landlessness if it wants to resolve the rice crisis.

The KMP has been pushing for the passage of House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed by the late Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran.

Cosico who is also an officer of Agham (Science and Technology for the People) said the government must support local agriculture by providing continuous incentives and credit to farmers.

Marbella criticized the Arroyo government for various agriculture-related scams. “Ang dinadaya nila, 75 porsyento ng mamamayang Pilipino.” (They are cheating 75 percent of the Filipino people.)

She described as token the subsidies provided by the Arroyo government to farmers. “The Arroyo government has no decent policy to strengthen local agriculture,” said Cosico.

She also called for the mechanization of agriculture. Today, farmers pay for the use of irrigation facilities and other services, said Cosico.

Moreover, both the KMP and the NFA-EA are calling for the passage of House Bill 3958 or the Rice Industry Reform Act sponsored by Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo.

The bill aims to strengthen the NFA’s domestic procurement capability, among others.

Cosico concluded that the country’s food security must be met through local procurement and enhancing local agricultural production. (Bulatlat.com)

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