Farmers to Agri Sec William Dar: Stop using agri losses to justify more rice imports

A progressive peasant organization said agriculture secretary should stop using the current disaster situation to justify further rice importation that will only aggravate the situation of palay farmers affected by successive typhoons. “We demand DA to instantly aid farmers affected by the successive typhoons. All resources of the DA should be directed to helping our food producers get back on their feet. Rice importation is not the solution as it would only hurt rice farmers and the local rice industry. Lugi na nga ang mga magsasaka natin, hindi pa tutulungan ng gobyerno, mag-iimport pa ng bigas, na ang makikinabang ay mga magsasaka ng palay sa Vietnam, Thailand at mga rice importers. Sobra naman ang DA,” says KMP chairman emeritus and former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano.

In a statement, secretary Dar said the country will import more rice next year to fill the gaps caused by the recent typhoons’ damage to agriculture. Total agricultural damage caused by back-to-back typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses is now at more than P12.5 billion based on estimates. Crops most affected were rice, corn, high-value crops like abaca, banana, and livestock and fisheries. More than 68,374 hectares of rice crops were deluged by the flooding caused by typhoon Ulysses.

The government aims to increase the country’s rice self-sufficiency level from 87 percent to 93 percent by the end of the year. However, KMP pointed out that the domestic rice self-sufficiency is on a downward trend practically as a result of rice importation and liberalization.

Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) latest report on food availability and sufficiency, the country’s rice self-sufficiency rate fell to 79.8 percent in 2019 from 86.2 percent in 2018. In 2017, the self-sufficiency rate for rice was at 95 percent. The three-year consecutive decline was mainly due to the reduced share of domestic production to the country’s rice supply, as the share of rice imports continue to increase. “This is a direct effect of the Duterte administration’s Rice Liberalization Law. The country’s increasing dependence on rice imports, now pegged at 20.2 percent, continue to undermine the local rice industry and rice farmers. We are now the world’s second top net rice importer, next to China.”

“Anuman ang sinasabing projected shortfall sa local rice production, hindi dapat gawing justification ito para sa dagdag na importation. Una, hindi naman gobyerno at National Food Authority (NFA) ang mag iimport ng bigas kundi mga private traders and importers. Bakit ang gobyerno ang nagiging tagapagsalita ng pribadong sektor? Ikalawa, napakarami nang inaprubahan na sanitary at phytosanitary permits ng Bureau of PIant Industry mula 2019 para sa mga rice importers. Nagamit na ba lahat ito? Bakit kailangan dagdagan pa ang bolyum ng rice imports?,” Mariano added.

Mariano further said: “Ang dapat gawin ng gobyerno, sa halip na importasyon, dapat ayudahan agad ang lokal na produksyon ng palay at tulungang makabangon ang mga magsasakang nasalanta.”

KMP demands an across-the-board P10,000 urgent cash aid for farming and fishing families affected by typhoons. The DA only assists farmers and fishers registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) or only 9,670,900 farmers and fishers. ###

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