GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

For the past weeks, we in MASIPAG Mindanao carefully monitor the current prices of Palay and well-milled rice to see the direct impact relative to the promises made by the Duterte government upon its ratification of RA 11203 or commonly known as the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

We noted the figures in the table above from our farmers across Mindanao on the farm gate prices of Palay in contrast to the average prevailing prices of Palay during off-season prior to the ratification of the Rice Tariffication Law. It is important to note that this was taken during off-season, where supply is relatively low and the price is supposed to be a bit higher. However this year, it is evident that prices of Palay dropped.

Now this only affirms our earlier critic that rice liberalization will only cheapen the buying price of Palay by the cartel dominated rice industry. Moreover, the retail price of milled rice in some areas remain to be high ranging from P40-60 per kilo.

The promise of this administration to lower the price of rice through liberalization is actually a broken promise, what we actually have right now is cheap buying price of Palay killing our local rice farmers.

Local rice farmers for the longest time were forced to sell their produce for a very cheap price since most of them do not have post-harvest facilities and rice mills to traders controlled by the rice cartels. Thus liberalization of the rice industry will be another bargaining card for the traders to cheapen the already cheap buying price of Palay.

While this administration insists that it is impossible for this country to become rice self-sufficient, data shows that we can be rice sufficient given an around 133,000 hectares additional land for rice, that is only 27% of the land area currently covered by agribusiness plantations in Mindanao alone, or only 13.33% of the target of the Palm-Oil Industry Expansion.

What is happening right now in our rice industry is very much similar on what happened to our garlic and onion industry. It is also similar to the liberalization of the petroleum industry, after the Ramos government sold Petron. Prices of petroleum products became so volatile, the promise of lower prices with “free-market” and “free-competition” is just an illusion.

We must learn from history. The Rice Tariffication Law will not do any good for our Rice industry, it will kill our local rice farmers and will place the consumers to volatile prices of milled-rice. This path which the Duterte government adheres will only further the export-oriented and import-dependent agricultural economy reflects an agricultural country that is highly food insecure.

Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped and legislation of the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) is a must.

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