Rice Importation for Big Traders, Not Farmers

Press Release
February 23, 2010

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the “Farmers as Importers Program” (FIP) is sham and was only intended to project that farmers are part of rice importation. KMP has said during deliberation at the House of Representatives that farmers would not engage to such practice as it is not their specialty, thus, any cooperative or group that would apply for it may be a “pseudo-farmers” group or those misled to benefit from it. It was reported that farmers’ cooperative has protested the change in procedure or the issuance of queue number by the National Food Authority (NFA).

“As a farmer, I do not see myself, even in wishful thinking, I really could not see myself importing rice, as cultivating rice has been my life, also of my parents and my relatives,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.

“Our calls since then are genuine land reform or lands to be distributed to the landless and particularly at present for the NFA to purchase local rice, the Nat’l Irrigation Administration (NIA) to provide irrigation and the Dept. of Agriculture to support farmers through promotion of sustainable agriculture not hybrid and dependence to expensive agro-chemical inputs,” said Ramos.

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“But the Arroyo gov’t has taken the opposite road, displacing farmers, converting lands to non-agricultural uses, promoting costly and hazardous farming of hybrid rice and flooding the country with imported rice,” he added.

The group said that FIP is unsound from its conception as rules of importation are dominated by the rice cartel composed of government executives, big traders and landlords. The reported protest of cooperatives of being sideswiped on applying import permits has been anticipated since then.

“For this kind of gov’t, this is just natural, as the Dept. of Agriculture itself has the power to import rice without public bidding, packaged as an executive agreement between the importing and exporting country,” said Ramos.

The group said that the Arroyo gov’t has increased the maximum volume of imported rice annually from 2.4 million metric tons to 3 million. Also, the price of local rice should be at the range of P29.32 per kg, in contrast to Vietnam rice of P20.75 to P26.28 per kg ($1=P41.115) based on quotes of Vietnames exporters of $450 to $570 per MT on end of January 2010. While Thailand rice pegs at P21.21 to P27.25 per kg based on Int’l. Rice Research Institute (IRRI) prices of $460 to $591 per MT on December 2009.

“Imported rice already nears the price of local rice even before it reaches the country. When transport and other costs are to be added, it would surely jack up and the landing price would surely be more expensive than locally-produced rice, so definitely, the NFA imports rice not because it is cheaper, but to follow the government’s policy of liberalization and commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO),” said Ramos.

“With the gov’t importing the bulk, there would be nothing left for those small importers. As DA is popular as a war room for corruption, absolutely, the band of corrupt gov’t officials and big traders would rake up kickbacks through overpricing and and smuggling,” he said.

Moreover, the group said that import levels are eating up a big chunk of the share in the national consumption, thus, shattering food security and developing food dependency from outside sources. In 2008, imported rice compose 16% of the consumed rice, a 26.8% increase from its 2007 share of 12.3%.

KMP and other groups also said that instead of the gov’t amplifying its importation, it should support farmers and boost agricultural production. The groups are calling against massive Land Use Conversions (LUCs) and promotion of agro-chemical- based farming.

“The Arroyo gov’t has been a historical administration as it transformed the country to be the top rice importer of the world, offered lands to foreigners, displaced countless farmers with its infrastructure projects and promoted grabbing by landlords who use the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with `Reforms’ or CARPer to kick out farmers,” Ramos said.

“Instead of being beggars and being pushed out of the queue of importing rice, farmers should unite and mobilize further to call for genuine land reform, sustainable agriculture and against liberalization of agriculture. We should reverse the destructive effects on agriculture of the Arroyo gov’t programs and policies,” called Ramos. #

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  1. Who are these rice cartel composed of government executives, big traders and landlords? Let us have their identities.

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