CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The local rice industry is in its death throes pushed by the Rice Liberalization Law amid reports that already depressed farm gate prices of local rice have bottomed to as low as P12 per kilo in this year’s first quarter in a season wherein cost is traditionally highest.
This, amid fears that once the local rice industry collapses, the prices of imported rice would likely soar.
Already, farmers from Barangay Balingcaway, Tarlac City have reported that “ordinary class” of palay could be sold only for P12 per kilo, the fragrant soft rice at P13, and special rice at P14, way below their production value ranging at P18 per kilo amid stiff competition from imported rice.
“While Pres. Duterte promised not to import rice during local harvest time, the government no longer has any control over importation because of R.A. 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law,” said Zenaida Soriano, national chair of the National Federation of Peasant Women, also referred to as Amihan.
Soriano noted that “the government has already announced the influx of more than three million metric tons of imported rice this year in a situation wherein under the Rice Liberalization Law, the National Food Authority (NFA) has been decoupled of its retailing function and is now limited to buff er stocking.”
“Hindi kayang bilhin ng NFA ang malaking share ng ani dahil nga pinagbawalan na nga ito mag-retail, kaya and siguradong epekto ng pagbaha ng imported rice ay ang pagbagsak ng presyo ng palay na nangyari na nga sa simula ng taon,” Soriano said.
“The law is now at the initial stage of undermining national food security, self-sufficiency and self-reliance,” she added.
She said the government has been ignoring the plight of affected farmers which are being pushed towards “total displacement” that would then be exploited by big land developers who are backing land use conversion for their business interests, as she cited the family of Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Soriano warned that “once the local rice industry collapses, there is no way to control the prices of imported rice.”
“The law’s decoupling of NFA functions is a liberalization measure, particularly the prohibition of its retailing of cheaper rice which is a regulatory power against increasing prices of rice,” she said.
Amihan urged the public to push for the scrapping of the Rice Liberalization Law, and called for the enactment of House Bill 477 Rice Industry Development Act or RIDA bill, filed by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas.