As if the prevailing inflationary conditions are not enough and already saddling the scrimping household, here comes rice tariffication!
Ask the woman of the house if her budget for food will still allow her to buy the basic needs of her family when it comes to buying nutritious food. Readily the answer would be a crestfallen face. Although there is not much choice for the one who carries the household purse but continually slices bit by bit on a daily basis the budget for the most basic of family requirements, still, there is that “necessity” to “make ends meet”. Most likely, the end result is anguish.
The euphemism though cannot hide the seriousness of the situation in the homes. For years, it has always been like that since time… scrimping on everything, including on the only requirement not to get sick: food.
“Rice tariffication liberalizes the import process for rice while taking away the role in importing of the National Food Authority (NFA). In place of the old system, private importers will pay a tariff of 35% on grain shipped from Southeast Asia, raising revenue for the government and also funding a rice industry competitiveness fund.” (Duterte signs rice tariffication bill, BusinessWorld)
It becomes incomprehensible for ordinary citizens when news like this breaks out. Meaningless jargons and alien to many ordinary folks, but very much felt as this translates into actual effects. Immediately, the ‘child-nurturers’ are the first that gets the brunt as the value of family resources becomes smaller, limited…
When a week ago a family of six can barely go by with a thousand pesos for a few days, now it can hardly support the family needs for basics even for a couple of days. Rice which is our “daily bread” has since become a hard-to-reach commodity. It means households whose limited resources cannot even buy a can of sardines to sustain food needs for a few days, have to think of other ways to fill empty stomachs.
But who cares among so-called government think-tanks? Unfettered rice importation will eventually drown out local farmer-producers who have been gasping for survival for the last several decades under a different administration. They are unperturbed, as every one of us is, that this law will further tighten the noose on each Filipinos’ neck, and sadly the government can’t care less. For as long as it brings in revenues to prop up the sagging economy, no matter what, the government will pursue ITS plans, sans the dire effects it brings to the Filipino people.
Even without hard statistics, the most destitute families among us that are growing in numbers are not only feeling the pinch but are actually groaning and struggling against the devastating effects of rice tariffication. The best indicators are everywhere anyone can see.
With these realities, what can we do?
In its recent statement against the Rice Tariffication Law, the Magsasaka At Siyentipiko Para Sa Pag-Unlad Ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), the farmer-scientist group asserts rice tariffication law will NOT address food security. It says:
Food security has always been problematic in the Philippines. With chemical-based agriculture as the dominant production system, farmers are trapped in a cycle of expensive production cost and unpredictable yields. They cannot rely on the government, through the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy their yields at a fair price.
The agriculture sector is also always vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons, floods and drought making it more difficult for the farmers to produce enough food. Food insecurity is made worse for both the producers and the consumers with the systemic corruption and supposed existence of the rice cartel controlling the market prices of rice.
The complexities of food insecurity cannot be addressed by rice tariffication, in fact, it will further worsen. The Php 4-7 supposed decrease in price will not matter much since other basic food and goods are heavily taxed. To ensure the affordable cost of rice, the government should provide ample and appropriate support for the farmers.
For comparison, the government support provided for farmers in Vietnam amounts to USD 1.1 billion, while in Thailand, the agriculture sector receives USD 4.4 billion. Meanwhile, Filipino farmers only received USD 190 million for support, and with the decrease in the role of the National Food Authority (NFA), farmers will be at the mercy of private traders.
There is no guarantee of a reliable supply of cheap, imported rice since governments of Vietnam and Thailand can implement a ban on exporting rice, as was the experience in 2007-2008.
Addressing food security will need a comprehensive solution, starting from junking the law that removed the quantitative restrictions and allows for rice tariffication. Conversion of agricultural lands to commercial and industrial uses should likewise cease, and instead let these agricultural lands be used for staple food crops for the Filipinos.
Small-scale, resource-poor farmers will also benefit more from using sustainable agricultural production where they can save from inputs by using their own local seeds and developing their own organic fertilizers and pesticides.
We urge the government to repeal the law on rice tariffication and focus instead on the genuine development of the rice industry. MASIPAG farmers’ experience shows that rice self-sufficiency can be achieved using sustainable and appropriate technologies such as sustainable agriculture.
We likewise call for the immediate resolution to the land struggles suffered by small-scale farmers over the country — ONLY WHEN FARMERS HAVE ACCESS AND CONTROL OVER THIS RESOURCE CAN WE TRULY ATTAIN FOOD SECURITY. (davaotoday.com)