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Farmers decry rice crisis

Farmers from the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), AMIHAN (National Federation of Peasant Women) and rice watchdog Bantay Bigas, trooped to the Department of Agriculture (DA) Office in Quezon City last September 5 to protest the prolonged rice crisis in the country.

The groups also decried National Food Authority (NFA)’s importation of weevil-infested rice on one hand and and essentially near zero ‘palay’ procurement on the other.

According to Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson, the DA and NFA are useless in solving the problem of rice shortage.

“There was enough ‘palay’ that were harvested by farmers and, in fact, the NFA is buying them at a lower price but still they keep the plan to import weevil-infested rice which is a big insult for farmers and consumers,” Canlas said.

He also belied NFA’s excuses that farmers intend not to sell their harvest due to its low buying price.

During dry season, private traders buy at P20 per kilo of palay, which declines during wet season.

The group scores the TRAIN law because of the triggered unabated oil price hikes that resulted to increases in the cost production of rice.

They cited from October to May planting season, the cost for fuel increased by P914 or 15 percent from the previous P6781 to P7195 per hectare.

Meanwhile Bantay Bigas challenged the government to immediately stop rice importation and procure majority of palay this coming harvest season.

They also warned Secretary Manny Piñol not to insist on feeding weevil-infested rice to consumers.

“If they don’t act on the crisis, they must resign,” Bantay Bigas ended.# (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

‘Local palay procurement over importation’

“NFA should prioritize local palay procurement over importation to stabilize rice prices and avoid the continuing rice crisis because of limited NFA rice supply.”—Bantay Bigas

‘Itaas sa P20 ang kilo ng palay’

“Isang dekada nang binibili ng NFA ng P17 kada kilo ang palay. Panahon na para taasan ang support price ng NFA at gawing P20 kada kilo.”–Zenaida Soriano, chairperson, Amihan

‘Rice industry is at the risk of annihilation’

“Only private traders and importers, as well as rice cartels, benefit from importation while the livelihood of our farmers and the entire local rice industry is at the risk of annihilation.” – Cathy Estabillo, Spokesperson, Bantay Bigas

Poor Filipino families worst hit by rising July 2018 inflation

Research group IBON said that faster inflation largely due to rising food prices hits poor households the worst.

The group also said that the Duterte administration’s proposal to increase food imports is short-sighted, and that the best defense against rising food prices and high inflation is to increase domestic food supply through long-term solutions that correct long-standing government neglect of agriculture.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that July 2018 inflation rose to 5.7 percent from 5.2 percent the previous month.

This was mostly driven by worsening inflation in food and non-alcoholic beverages with higher rates among nine out of 11 commodity items in the index.

Prices rose fastest for vegetables (16 percent), corn (13 percent), and fish (11.4 percent).

IBON said that this increasingly expensive food is particularly problematic for poor families because food takes up a greater portion of their expenditure compared to higher income families.

According to the latest available data from the 2015 Family Income and Expenditures Survey, 59.7 percent of the expenditures of families in the bottom 30 percent income group was spent on food compared to just 38.8 percent for families in the upper 70 percent income group.

Rising prices will push more families into hunger and poverty, the group said.

The Duterte administration is proposing to arrest escalating food prices and inflation by lowering tariffs on food to increase their importation.

IBON however said that while this could give some immediate relief it is only a short-sighted measure and the government is still failing to come up with long-term solutions to rising domestic food prices.

The much-needed long-term solution is to increase domestic agricultural, fisheries and livestock productivity, said the group.

Yet the Duterte administration is proposing to increase food imports while cutting the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s proposed budget for 2019 by Php862 million, making it 1.7 percent lower than in 2018.

Domestic producers lacking government support are at risk of being undermined or displaced by cheap food imports.

IBON said that additional food imports should only be for a short time until prices stabilize.

 

Suspending the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law will also greatly reduce inflationary pressures.

 

The group stressed that measures to increase farm productivity should immediately be implemented including providing irrigation, production and storage facilities, extension services, subsidized credit and marketing support, among others. #

Crisis of PH agriculture drives high inflation and economic slowdown

Research group IBON said that the recently released second quarter 2018 growth figures confirm the fundamental reason for rising food prices: underdeveloped agriculture from government neglect.

IBON said that while the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law is the most proximate driver of inflation within the Duterte administration’s control, the agricultural sector’s underdevelopment is the long-term reason for rising food prices.

The sector is in deep crisis with slowing growth, massive job losses, and domestic food supply insufficient for the growing population, the group added.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported drastically slowing growth in agriculture to 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018 from 6.3 percent in the same period last year.

First semester growth has correspondingly been dragged down to just 0.7 percent in 2018 from 5.6 percent in the first semester last year.

IBON noted that agricultural growth today falls far behind estimated population growth of 1.6 percent in 2018 and is well below the seven-decade historical average of 3.0 percent since 1948.

The agricultural slowdown is also reflected in massive job losses in the sector.

Agricultural employment collapsed by a huge 723,000 to just 9.8 million in April 2018 from 10.5 million in the same period in 2017, the group observed.

“The Duterte administration only gives lip service to improving agricultural productivity amid this severe crisis of agriculture in the countryside,” IBON executive director Sonny Africa said.

He said that the 2019 budget for Department of Agriculture (DA), for instance, is even proposed to be cut by Php862.3 million or a 1.7 percent decline to Php49.8 billion from Php50.7 billion in 2018.

These are comparable figures using the cash-based equivalent for 2018 with the cash-based budget for 2019.

“The administration also continues long-standing government neglect of the sector,” Africa added.

“The combined agriculture and agrarian reform budget is only 3.7 percent of the total proposed cash-based budget for 2019. This is less than the 3.8 percent share under the obligation-based budget for 2018 and even lower than the historical range of about 4 to 6 percent since the mid-1980s,” he explained.

According to Africa, proposals to increase food imports may be necessary but should only be a short-term emergency measure used with restraint if it has been established that there is a shortage.

It is possible for more food imports to lower prices but only if traders do not exploit tariff cuts just to increase their profits, he said.

“With importation, uncompetitive domestic producers not given enough support by the government will be displaced if trade protection for them is removed. Importation could also tend to worsen the trade deficit and add to pressures for the peso to depreciate,” Africa warned. # (IBON.org)

 

Peasants hold solidarity night for land reform

Thousands of farmers from all over the Philippines traveled to Metro Manila to participate in multi-sectoral activities marking the first 100 days of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

They held a solidarity night at the Department of Agrarian Reform multi-purpose gym Friday night (October 7) to underscore their continuing struggle for genuine agrarian reform.

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