Rice supply situation to worsen--farmers, civil society

March 26, 2008

By Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Breaking News / Nation

Posted date: March 26, 2008


http://newsinfo. inquirer. net/breakingnews /nation/view_ article.php? article_id= 126567


MANILA, Philippines -- Farmers and civil society groups warned on Wednesday that the worst situation in the local rice supply was still to come as they predicted that the lowest price per kilo of the commodity, currently at P18.25, could hit P40 during the lean months of July to September.


According to Jessica Reyes-Cantos, lead convener of Rice Watch and Action Network or R1, reports of tightening global supply of rice have pushed local prices to abnormally high levels even at the onset of peak summer harvests.


In a statement, R1 said that based on farmers' estimates, the expected production output this harvest season is 1.9 million metric tons, enough to last for almost two months.


"The price of rice is expected to go up to as high as P40 by July as traders will definitely take advantage of the limited supply, while the government will be dependent on imported rice for its buffer stock," said Jimmy Tadeo, chairman of the National Rice Farmers Council.


R1 said farmers computed the expected rice supply this harvest season based on the 868,509 hectares of irrigated land that will be delivering the produce this April.


Only the irrigated areas were able to plant late last year up to early this year while the rain-fed areas or the rice farms without irrigation are expected to harvest around October or November.


According to Tadeo, the national average yield is only 3.5 tons a hectare, which will result to around three million tons of palay, or unmilled rice.


The milling of palay has only 65 percent recovery, which means that the three-million- ton output will translate to some 1.9 million tons of milled rice.


Government estimates placed the country's daily consumption of the staple grain at 33,000 tons.


Tadeo said the government was not able to help the farmers cope with the rising cost of petroleum-based farm inputs and even promoted chemical farming instead of training the farmers to be more self-reliant and organic to reduce their production costs.


"We are calling on the farmers to hold on to their palay and leave some for their household consumption so they will not buy rice for their own needs especially in the coming months when the prices will be more unbearable for them," Tadeo said.


Cantos, meanwhile, criticized the government for failing to improve the production performance of rice and falsely relying on imports to feed the people.


"All the government officials and so-called free market economists who espoused importation rather than improve the local production should be exposed to shame now that the so-called free-flowing international trade is mired by self-imposed export quota of major rice-exporting countries," Cantos added.


R1 quoted Rene Manabat, a Nueva Ecija farmer, as saying that the P1.5-billion augmentation budget, which will be used to increase rice production, "will be another knee-jerk reaction of a government in panic while trying to scramble for a solution to avoid public outrage."


"The ongoing crisis that the government refuses to admit should lead to a comprehensive rice master plan based on self-sufficiency policy, learning from the international rice trading dynamics that we are experiencing now," Manabat added.






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