4/14/2008

Crisis in Rice, Rice in Crisis

At no other time has the Philippines experienced a ‘rice crisis’ – being an agricultural country and amidst the harvesting season.

Rice prices have already increased from P4.00 to P10.00 per kilo since February. The country’s rice production decreases while the population increases.

This is development. Agricultural lands are turned into industrial parks, leisure parks and subdivisions resulting to the decrease in rice production.

The country’s rice importation is liberalized to partially solve the ‘rice crisis. Yet, it only gives opportunity to businessmen to engage on hoarding and to set the prevailing high prices to gain more profit. Furthermore, it gives opportunity to the GMO contaminated rice to freely enter the country. Even the authorities accepted that we don’t have the capacities to test if the imported rice is GMO free. Still, there is no scientific evidence that GMO foods are safe for human consumption and to the environment as a whole.

Meanwhile, the National Food Authority (NFA) sells rice at a lower price, aiming to cater the poorest of the poor in the country – selling to them rice at a limited 3 to 5 kilos of rice per legitimate poor family per day. I think it only worsen the situation – exploiting the poorest of the poor – justifying that there is really a rice crisis. It created panic and nervousness among the people. It even sparked minor riots among them, in some NFA selling centers.

My family’s budget for commercial rice – here in the city – has already increased by 30%. I always consider the ever-increasing prices of commodities as a way of life, especially here. My principle is to work harder and to earn more in order to cope with the ever-increasing prices. Yet, the shortage of supply is another story. It is a real problem. We can always cope with the high prices but when there is really no supply, we cannot eat our money.

Gone are the days when we only eat the rice that we produce. That was when my Lolo Celestino was still living. Now, I realized that it is a shame that nobody among us (me and my siblings) wants to engage in farming. I think this is also true to many Filipino children. Maybe, it stemmed from the fact that we may be an agricultural country but farmers are neglected here. Farmers here are among the poorest people.

Basically, self sufficiency and increase in production are the solutions to combat food shortage. We should start again from within. Each family should be self sufficient.

My mother suggested before to turn our small portion of land – in the province – into a resort or retreat and convention venues. I just agreed thinking that it could be another source of income for the family. On second thought, based from the crisis that we have right now, I reconsider farming, at least to make sure that my family will be self sufficient.

Strangely, I greatly consider the issues of massive agricultural lands and lack of government support to the agricultural sector as the causes of low rice production. But, still, I think those are not enough for me to believe that there is really a shortage of rice supply right now.

I am thinking of the conversation I overheard from two women while I was in a jeepney yesterday. The first woman said, “Wala naman talagan shortage sa suplay eh. Mataas lang ang presyo. Tinatago nila ang bigas kaya tumataas ang presyo.” The second woman said, “Ginagawa lang nilang isyu na walang suplay ng bigas para matakpan ang ibang isyu sa gobyerno.”

Oddly enough, I do believe that there are people who are benefiting from this ‘tailored’ rice crisis.

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