Duterte’s go for new rice imports fails food security, to threaten rice self-sufficiency – Bantay Bigas

News Release: April 8, 2018

Bantay Bigas

Quezon City –“We are dismayed with Duterte’s solution to resolve the food crisis in our country — he is but meekly approving another importation by the NFA. It is obviously “self-inflicted,” already appearing sarsuela-like, to press for the NFA council’s approval by conditioning the public and crying wolf on the supposed ‘shortage,’” Cathy Estavillo said, Bantay Bigas Spokesperson.

Estavillo said that 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 for rice self-sufficiency. The country is at 95% self-sufficient for rice since last year.

She added that Duterte’s apparent neoliberal stance in importing rice will also generate a new wave of crisis in the sphere of rice production, primarily demolishing the livelihood of many rice farmers in the country.

Bantay Bigas and National Federation of Peasant Women – Amihan blamed that the crisis is symptomatic of a liberalized agriculture, where on one side, the government prefers rice importation, as typified by NFA Administrator Jason Aquino, and on the other side, where local rice supply is being surrendered by the government to the private sector, as execution of its embracing of neoliberal policies. Moreover, that the government policy on agriculture is double-bladed as it impinges on both the welfare of producer farmers and consumers.

“That’s why, we reiterate that the NFA should procure locally-produced palay, as solution to agency’s lingering claim of depleting rice stocks,” expressed by Bantay Bigas and Amihan.

Estavillo reacted on the reported abolition of the NFA Council by Duterte as careless and presumptuous. She said that the council could not be abolished right away as it was created through a law, so its supposed abolition should also be through legislation.

“Though members of NFA council have contrasting opinions on the issue, they are united in submission to the neoliberal dogma of importation preached by the WTO,” she said.

The country is obliged to import rice, even if not needed, in order to fulfill its  commitments to the World Trade Organization – Agreement on Agriculture (WTO-AoA).

Bantay Bigas urged the NFA council to get a grip with reality and work towards the  attainment of genuine self-sufficiency and food security in the country. The NFA is allocated with P7 billion for 2018 for rice procurement, but it exceptionally justifies importation to address deficiency and calamity response. The groups claimed that the appropriate use of the fund could potentially challenge monopoly trader control on palay and rice.

“We urge the NFA to raise the palay price at at least P20 per kilo. Its budget could procure around 350,000 metric tons of palay, to result 227,500 MT or 4.5 million bags of rice, sufficient for a 7- day buffer stock”, Zen Soriano said, Amihan National Chairperson.

“We condemn the Duterte regime for further liberalizing the rice industry and agricultural sector and worsening the situation that puts Filipino people in deep hunger and poverty.”

“The public is closely on watch and guarding on the issue of rice crisis while farmers across the country are pushing for genuine agrarian reform, demanding for real rice industry development programs aimed towards the attainment of self-sufficiency and food security,” Soriano concluded. ###

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