By ZYSA MEI ELLORAN
MANILA – Farmers cannot afford to buy rice anymore.
This is the sentiment of Filipino farmers as they decried the continuing price increase of food, particularly rice, while their ranks continue to suffer from heavy losses due to increasing production costs.
“We are justified in opposing high rice prices that burden consumers and even farmers who cannot afford it anymore. The public must strongly oppose and protest against exorbitant rice and food prices. However, Marcos Jr’s price ceiling and other palliative measures do not explain why rice is expensive in the country, and more importantly, none of these address the most basic problems of rice farmers,” Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement.
On Oct. 19, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) proposed a reimposition of the rice price ceiling to the Marcos administration. The group proposed a P45 price ceiling on well-milled rice in November to prevent new attempts to increase the retail price of rice. SINAG reported that some rice traders and millers are offering to buy harvested palay for P20 – P23.50, and dry palay for P26 – P29 per kilo.
KMP, however, said that farmers should not be blamed for the increasing price of rice as big traders and price manipulators within the rice industry have a hand in the perennially unaffordable rice prices.
“Traders are buying palay for as low as P17 to P18 per kilo in some provinces. It is as if traders are asking farmers to hand their grains over for free,” KMP said.
On Sep. 5, the price cap on rice in the Philippines took effect under Executive Order 39, which sets a nationwide price ceiling of P41 per kilogram for regular-milled rice and P45 per kilogram for well-milled rice.
The recommendation was created by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) after retail prices for locally produced and imported rice increased between 4 to 14 percent in August.
“It is a big anomaly because we are in the harvesting season but the rice prices are still rising and the grain prices are still low. Even though we will have a price ceiling again if the supply and grain prices are dictated and controlled by the Cartel, and NFA and the state still have no power on this, the rice prices will still break free. This is what happened in EO 39 in Malacanang,” Ramos said.
Last week, farmers marched to Mendiola as part of their Day of Protest Against Landgrabbing, Injustice, and Hunger, saying that food insecurity will remain for many Filipinos if there is no genuine agrarian reform.
KMP said that seven out of 10 farmers remain landless as of this writing, while “rice farms are dwindling in size and insufficient”. Big landholdings, on the other hand, remain intact with 1.2 million and 1.6 million hectares of current and proposed plantations devoted to banana, pineapple, oil palm, and other cash crops for export to the US, China, Japan, and Europe.