In a forum held today at the Balay Kalinaw Conference Hall in UP Diliman, Quezon City, farmers and consumers called on presidential candidates to put a stop on the country’s rice crisis by prioritizing local production instead of importation.
The forum was organized by Bantay Bigas, (Rice Monitor) an alliance of organizations for sufficient, safe and affordable rice and was attended by stakeholders of the local rice industry including farmers and consumers. The main speakers were from Ibon Foundation, Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes, National Food Authority Employees’ Association and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) who discussed the current situation of the local rice industry, sustainable agriculture and impacts of El Nino, the role of government employeess in ensuring NFA’s mandate, and genuine agrarian reform as key to rice self-sufficiency, respectively.
“The Phillipines is still one of the top rice importing countries despite having vast tracts of land devoted to rice farming. According to FAO, the Philippines is among the last countries in terms of self-sufficiency. The Aquino administration boasted of self-sufficiency during his term and allocated a total of 339 billion pesos to the Department of Agriculture from 2010-2015. However, data from the PSA showed that the country’s palay production declined by 4.31%- from 18.97 MMT in 2014 to 18.15 MMT for 2015, “ said Cathy Estavillo, co-convenor of Bantay Bigas.
As early as last year, the NEDA has already advised the administration to import additional rice for the first quarter of 2016 due to the effects that El Nino might have on local production. This is in addition to the 500,000 MT of imported rice already programmed for the said period.
“Liberalization and local policies hinders the progress of the local rice industry. It is not El Nino, but the government policy of importation which is killing the local rice industry,” Estavillo said.
The forum also challenged the presidential candidates to stand for genuine agrarian reform.
“These candidates talk about rice self-sufficiency as one of their agenda, but no one ever mentioned genuine agrarian reform as a key to attaining that,” said Estavillo. This is a challenge to the presidentiables- implement a free land distribution to farmers, end rice importation and agricultural liberalization,” Estavillo ended.###