"Lean Months" a Petty Excuse for Rice Price Increase
“Traders and rice cartels only use the ‘lean months’ as a petty excuse for increasing the price of commercial rice”, said Estrella Catarata, PNFSP’s Executive Director. “The truth is that they create an artificial shortage to justify the price increase and to import rice. And once prices increase, they never experience a rollback even during harvest season”, she adds.
“Price increases only benefit the traders, importers, and cartels. The farmers and consumers are always at the losing end. Farm gate price of Palay is still bought at a lower price, around P22-23 per kilo while commercial rice is now being sold at P39 to more than P 40 per kilo. This is a big adjustment to the household budget for a typical Filipino household whose breadwinner earns only minimum wage,” expressed Catarata.
PNFSP strongly believes that the government’s rice importation policy is detrimental to Filipinos and does not help alleviate their growling stomachs. Price increases are symptomatic of the ineffectiveness of the World Trade Organization’s policy on agricultural and trade liberalization.
“The import policy gives leeway to rice smuggling, and flooding the markets with smuggled rice kills the livelihood of farmers and the local rice industry. Moreover, having smuggled rice does not even help in bringing the prices down,” according to Catarata.
“If the Aquino administration is serious in its rice self-sufficiency program, it should first give support to the farmers through subsidies and support services. And more importantly, a genuine agrarian reform program that would provide land to the peasants without being indebted to landlords,” explained Catarata.
“Furthermore, giving assistance to farmers would mean a robust domestic rice supply even during the lean months. There would thus be no reason for price increase and importation. It would be a win-win situation for farmers, the government, and consumers,” she adds.
For information, Estrella Catarata, PNFSP Executive Director,