The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) and rice watch group Bantay Bigas reiterated the call for the National Food Authority to procure all the palay harvest of farmers and directly reach communities to ensure farmers’ income and supply of affordable rice for Filipinos amid lockdown and after Vietnam’s suspension of rice exports.

“Ensuring the country’s food security based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance is necessary especially now in this time of crisis. We have repeatedly warned the government against the country’s import dependence for its food staple for fear of such circumstances,” Amihan secretary general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

Philippines is one of the top markets of Vietnam rice. Last year, the country imported 2.1 million metric tons from Vietnam or 33 percent of Vietnam’s total rice exports and 65 percent of the country’s total rice imports.

While Secretary William Dar assured that the country has enough rice to feed the country, Estavillo stressed, “Food affordability is crucial to protect the poor and marginalized from hunger until their recovery from the impact of the pandemic. NFA should increase its participation in the market to lower the prices of commercial rice to P25 per kilo and ensure that poor Filipinos will have rice on the table.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority projected a rice stock of 2.661 million metric tons equivalent to 75 days by end of the first quarter of the year. Rice inventory as of February 1, 2020 is at 2.37 million metric tons where 44 were from households, 35.4 percent from commercial warehouses and 20.6 percent from NFA depositories.

The groups reiterated the following socio-economic demands to help the farmers as food security frontliners:

1. Direct palay procurement from farmers’ communities of at least P20 per kilo;

2. Ensure lower prices of commercial rice and availability of NFA rice in the market;

3. Strict monitoring of rice supplies and price control measures to prevent hoarding and other exploitative practices of traders;

4. Ensure unhampered movement of food producers and transport of food products, including small-scale farmers, farm workers, agricultural workers and fisherfolk;

5. Provide P10,000 cash assistance for each family affected by lockdown and immediate distribution of relief packs;

6. Condonation of payments of land rent, land amortization and other arrears of farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

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