FOOD INSECURITY WORSENED BY RICE LIBERALIZATION
Quezon City, Philippines – One year after the implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law, millions of Filipino farmers have been devastated by the massive wave of rice imports that caused palay farm gate prices to plummet severely. Many farmers are on the brink of bankruptcy as the depressed palay prices come with the soaring prices of farm inputs that contribute a lot in the ever-increasing cost of production. Such situation will definitely lead to indebtedness and worse, the eviction of farmers from their lands and the destruction of their livelihoods. According to the estimates of the research group IBON, rice farmers in aggregate suffered a total income loss of Php84.8 billion in 2019 due to the catastrophic drop in palay farmgate prices. Central Luzon farmers reportedly suffered a loss of at least P25,000 per hectare last year as palay prices dropped to P7 per kilo during the peak of the harvest season. In Cagayan, farmers lost P11,300 losses per hectare last October 2019 due to low farmgate price at P10 per kilo, which remains the current price today. In other reports monitored by the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc.(PNFSP), farmers using chemical farming method are the most affected by rice liberalization, noting a negative income of P13,829 particularly the farmers from South Cotabato. However, not only farmers using chemical farming method are affected by rice liberalization law but also those using conventional farming methods who reportedly incurred a 75%-85% loss on their net income per hectare due to the unabated influx of imported rice. Since the country’s membership to the World Trade Organization in 1995, the agriculture sector has been in a chronic crisis. Farmers are thrown into bankruptcy and indebtedness due to low government priority given to domestic agriculture, including the rice industry. The rice liberalization law has just increased the country’s dependency on imports instead of developing its own agricultural production to attain national food security. PNFSP remains firm in its call to repeal the rice liberalization law that has aggravated the food insecurity problem in the country brought by landlessness and lack of a genuine agrarian reform program. PNFSP, along with other advocates groups, is pushing for the enactment of House Bill 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) as an alternative bill. The bill proposes the authentic development program for the national rice industry, involving a three-year allocation of P495 billion, which includes P185 billion for its core programs and P310 billion for the procurement program of the NFA. PNFSP believes that self- reliance and self-sufficiency are crucial in the attainment of a nation’s genuine food security.