Rice trade liberalization bad for PH farmers, food security | Inquirer Opinion
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Rice trade liberalization bad for PH farmers, food security

/ 12:14 AM June 04, 2016

THIS REFERS to the article “Duterte urged: Remove NFA monopoly in rice trade” (Business, 5/23/16).

A group of economists reportedly recommended the adoption of rice trade liberalization as a policy of the new administration. Even a freshman student of economics would understand that, as an agricultural country, it is unsound for the Philippines to completely abandon its rice-arable lands and do away with rice self-sufficiency, and instead shift to 100-percent rice importation.

Liberalizing rice imports, assuming world prices are low, would result in the unhindered entry of cheap rice imports.

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This would surely ruin the livelihood of Filipino rice farmers, destroy our country’s ability to produce its own food, and eventually endanger the nation’s food security.

If world prices are high and the volume of imported rice is low, we would be in a quandary as to where to avail ourselves of rice supply, especially in a dire situation where domestic produce is inadequate.

The agriculture import liberalization policy is precisely the cause of the demise of some local produce like garlic, onions, and rice. The prices of domestically produced agricultural products nosedived with the unhampered inflow of cheap imports. In 2014, importers even manipulated supply and demand resulting in the mercurial rise in the price of these commodities, which prompted a legislative inquiry.

The world rice supply is shrinking due to the increase in population and the reduction in harvest due to climate change.

Simply put, our country must not rely on outside sources for our supply of this staple food of millions of Filipinos, given the vulnerabilities to the vagaries of the world rice market. If we adopt rice trade liberalization as a policy, we may be looking at a rice crisis unparalleled in history. We have seen in Kidapawan just recently that the concept of orderliness escape’s one who is hungry.

The issues of preferential choices in rice importers, unabated smuggling, policy restrictions, and the like, are better addressed simply by the forceful implementation of existing laws, hopefully under the iron-fist rule of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, and not by adopting trade liberalization as a policy.

Therefore, it is but sound to lodge in the national government, through the National Food Authority, the power to exclusively import rice, otherwise, the unhampered inflow of cheap rice imports would destroy our rice industry and, by implication, our own farmers’ ability to supply our country’s food requirements.

Our recommendation is for the government to ensure the implementation of a genuine land reform program, to invest massively in social goods for agriculture (such as irrigation and postharvest facilities, farm-to-market roads, marketing programs and credit) and to make rice production profitable to Filipino farmers.

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These measures ought to be adopted by the incoming Duterte administration because this will ensure food security and rice self-sufficiency. With guarded optimism, we all hope Duterte will succeed in changing this country for the better.

—ROMAN M. SANCHEZ,national president,
National Food Authority Employees
Association-Courage, nfa_ea@yahoo.com

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TAGS: agriculture, NFA monopoly, Rice trade
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