“We know that this is a complicated issue, thus, should not be treated as plain plus or minus equals something. Rice production is not an economic issue but more of a socio-political and economic issue that actually hounded the country for more than centuries,” Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.
KMP said that the country’s rice self-sufficiency was significantly shattered by the entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 during the Ramos government. Since then, the country was obliged to import rice or the so-called minimum access volume (MAV) provision particularly to rice, though, it is not necessary.
During pre-WTO period, rice importation would only account to 0-7% of the total rice supply per year, but upon entry to the body, imported rice would chunk to 20-28.98% of the country’s total rice consumption. Empirically, imported rice depressed local production as its price are more competitive than the local whose production are feudal, more labor-intensive, costly and unsupported by infrastructure and subsidies.
“Aquino is trying to ignore that lands are controlled by landlords and they extract land rent from farmers, thus, for a 100-cavan of harvested rice, landlords could take away as much as 50 cavans as rent. Consequently, farmers are plagued with debt, unable to improve or sustain their production,” Ramos said.
KMP said that farmers could not sustain cultivation of hybrid rice as it requires effective irrigation system, additional costs for seeds and agro-chemicals purchase and it is vulnerable to climate changes such as wind stress as what occured in the yield let-down in Nueva Ecija on the last quarter of 2008 to first quarter of 2009. The group said that hybrid rice seeds SL-8 cost to about P4,000 per bag, commonly marketed by SL-Agritech and this is far more expensive than inbred that costs to only P1,200 or lower per bag. It also requires at least 8 bags of agro-chem fertilizers that cost P1,900 to P2,300 per bag, compared to inbred requirement that is only 6 bags.
The group said that this is no different to Marcos’ Green Revolution during the martial law era when it proliferated the use of massive agro-chemical inputs, initially subsidized by the government. But when agriculture became dependent on agro-chem use, the government pull out its subsidies and the farmers were left the burden of costly production, putting them to indebtedness and landlessness. Landgrabbing will definitely take place as farmers are compelled to pawn their lands with no capacity to pay for it back.
“Clearly, a poor farmer could not cope up with these prerequisites to cultivate hybrid rice, we should also add the absence of infrastructure such as farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities and more, thus, increasing the cost of production,” Ramos added.
Also, KMP said that the government expects hybrid rice to double rice production. This is a pre-cursor to the impending land-use conversion (LUCs) of half of the 1 million-hectare rice lands. From 1988 to 1998, rice lands declined by about half a million hectares and recorded LUCs reached to about 50,000 hectares, more than half is at the CALBARZON area. At present there is also a significant wave of LUCs in Central Luzon such as along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and pending in Bgy. Tungkong Mangga, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan to give way to the planned MRT 7 inter-modal station.
The group said that at present there is a trend of landgrabbing such as what is being done to farmers from Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna, Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, in San Miguel, Bulacan, in Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, in Nueva Ecija towns and many parts of the country.
“We should remember that the P18.25 per kg NFA rice increased to P25 per kg on September 2008 under Arroyo’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) or in principle liberalizing agriculture. If Aquino simply continues Arroyo’s agricultural program, he will be the main proponent of poverty and hunger predominantly in the countryside,” Ramos said. #