Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Solon backs farmers' plea

Office of Representative RAFAEL V. MARIANO
South Wing - 615, House of Representatives
Constitution Hills, Diliman, Quezon City
Tel. No. 931-6397& 931-5001 loc. 7314

NEWS RELEASE

October 18, 2004

References:
Rep. RAFAEL MARIANO, ANAKPAWIS Party-list (0920-4516504)
Jim Fernando, Public Information Officer (0921-3838393)

Solon backs farmers’ plea for palay price hikes, warns of “rice crisis”
similar to 1995


Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano today backed the
demand of rice farmers for an increase in the farm-gate price of palay
(unmilled rice) from the current P 7 to P12 a kilo and called for
government intervention to avert a “rice crisis” similar to that of
1995.

Farmers groups led by the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon and the
Lumaban – Timog Katagalugan on Thursday threatened to stop harvesting
the rice crop starting today, in the middle of the harvest season in
what is known as the country’s rice belt. Scores of rice farmers led by
the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) is also set to stage a
camp-out starting tomorrow in front of the Department of Agriculture to
press for the increase in palay prices.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap urged farmers and traders to reach a
speedy and equitable conclusion to the dispute so as not to jeopardize
the country’s food security.

Mariano said that “the government must immediately intervene to the
problem and not limit itself from simply playing as a mediator and
should instead take the lead in asserting farmers’ just and reasonable
demand.”

“If the government is really sincere in addressing the farmers demand,
it should immediately increase the procurement capacity of the National
Food Authority,” he said.

“Raising the NFA’s procurement to at least 25 percent of the annual
palay production could directly influence the prices dictated by
unscrupulous traders at the farm-gate,” he said. “This is only one of
the many doable solutions to increase the farm-gate prices of palay.”

The NFA only buys at least two percent (2%) of the country’s annual
palay production. The country’s national daily consumption requirement
is also increasing steadily. Data from the NFA showed that national
daily consumption in 2001 is 24,600 metric tons (MT); 25,780 MT in 2002;
26,400 MT in 2003; and 27,000 MT for this year.

To ensure its 30-day buffer stock and meet the 27,000 MT daily
consumption requirements, the NFA has resorted to rice importation above
the minimum access volume dictated by the World Trade Organization.

“Instead of buying locally, the NFA has resorted to dependence on rice
importation,” he said. “Rice importation is also the main reason why the
NFA ranked second in the list of government-owned and controlled
corporations who acquire tremendous losses,” the farmer-lawmaker added.

Mariano also assailed the planned privatization of the NFA saying it
would only result to the country’s import dependence and places the
country’s food security in enormous risk and could lead to an artificial
rice crisis similar to that in 1995 when rice prices jacked up to about
P30 a kilo.

“The privatization of the NFA would lead to the removal of so-called
government subsidy to farmers and consumers by the national government,”
says Mariano adding that “the privatization of the grain agency also
means allowing rice cartels to govern the rice industry as it calls for
the withdrawal of government intervention in the market.”

“Dependence on food importations, the NFA privatization and government’s
negligence to farmers’ demand to raise palay prices could lead to a rice
crisis similar to that of 1995,” Mariano said.

“There’s no production shortfall in 1995 but it is the year when the NFA
did not intervene and did not procure much,” he said.

“The low participation of NFA coupled with low inventory of stocks and
the manipulation of rice cartels are the bases why the crisis occurred
in 1995. The NFA participation is significant because it has been a
practice of rice cartels to monitor the buffer stock of the NFA as a
pricing guide for their stocks. In 1995, when rice cartels observed that
the NFA has low inventory, rice cartels artificially raised prices,”
Mariano said. “The manipulation by rice cartels must be stopped,” he
warned. #

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