ADB 'plan for regional rice cartel' bared
Max V. De Leon / Reporter
Sept. 3, 2012
Local and foreign civil-society groups cautioned the government against giving in to pressures from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to drop the country’s rice self-sufficiency program and to just continue importing rice.
The ADB’s suggestions were seen as a show of support for a rice monopoly in Southeast Asia that is expected to raise rice prices by 10 percent a year.
The National Rice Farmers Council, Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) and Oxfam issued a warning on Monday that with global warming continuously hurting farm output globally, it would not be prudent for the government to just depend on foreign countries as sources of the Filipinos’ staple.
Oxfam said for every 1 degree-Celsius increase in temperature, rice yields are expected to drop by 10 percent.
“It is urgent that we adapt as early as now, and exert effort to build our capacity to cope; and targeting self-sufficiency in rice is definitely among the many adaptation measures the country should take. This will require significant investment, but at the same time, it will also build the country’s resilience, by enhancing the productivity of small farmers, and raising rural incomes,” said Kala Constantino, Oxfam’s Advocacy, Campaigns and Communications coordinator in the Philippines
“We find this analysis of Lourdes Adriano of the ADB short-sighted and very treacherous for small and poor Filipino farmers, particularly because she is a fellow Filipino. Let us remind Adriano and the ADB that our rice exporter-neighbors strived for rice self-sufficiency, and developed their local rice industry first before they reached their current status,” said Jaime Tadeo, spokesman for the National Rice Farmers Council.
Aurora Regalado, R1 convener, said reports from US Rice Outlook of the US Department of Agriculture showed rice prices increased over the past month, partly due to stronger prices of other grains caused by a US drought.
R1, she added, fears that ADB could be setting the stage for the plan to form a regional rice cartel in the region with the ambitious goal to boost rice prices by 10 percent annually.
“Remember that we spent a staggering P70 billion in 2008 for rice importation. Making our staple food dependent on the vagaries of global rice market is like putting our children’s food on the table at the mercy of vultures in a wasteland. Food is and can be a political weapon,” Regalado said.
R1 found Adriano’s recommendation ironic when the Philippines’s own Ramon Magsaysay Awards gave due recognition this year to Yang Saing Koma, a long time promoter of rice technology, the System of Rice Intensification that benefited the Cambodian farmers and propelled the country to greater heights in local industry development.
At this time, Regalado said it is reassuring that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is still sticking to his local rice self-sufficiency program.
More than 2 million rice farmers and their families depend on rice for their livelihood.
|Rice Watch and Action Network|