Farmers, rice watch groups assert repeal of rice liberalization, production support to ensure food self-sufficiency

On the 41st year of World Food Day set by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, rice farmers and peasant women from Bataan and Pampanga, urban poor, consumers and food security advocates led by Bantay Bigas, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Anakpawis Partylist protested in front of the central office of the Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority in Quezon City to reiterate the demand to repeal the RA 11203 Rice Liberalization Law, provide immediate aid and production subsidy and post-harvest facilities to farmers, and increased palay procurement to higher prices to ease the poverty and hunger experienced by farmers amid the pandemic crisis and the man-made disaster created by rice liberalization.

The FAO’s theme for this year is “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future.” in recognition of the need for global cooperation to help the most vulnerable to recover from the current crisis.

The groups dubbed the activity as World Hunger Day with the theme “Kalampag: Kalayaan mula sa Kagutuman.”

Amihan and Bantay Bigas said that a farmer who harvested 80 sacks of palay for a hectare of land and spent a total of P58,677 (based on case study in Bulacan) would have a net deficit of P18,677 if palay is brought at P10 per kilo, the lowest farmgate price monitored by the groups.

The groups laid their palay for drying in front of DA and NFA to emphasize the difficulty of farmers who have no access to drying facilities.

The groups are calling for at least Php20 per kilo support price from NFA which will give farmers a net income of Php21,323 or Php7,107.66 monthly or a P237 daily income.

Former Anakpawis partylist representative Ariel Casilao said that the impact of rice liberalization to self-sufficiency and farm gate prices are essentially violations of the Filipino people’s right to food and rice farmers’ right to work or livelihood.

Philippines ranks 69th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020 with a score of 19 and a moderate hunger level. Based on the recent SWS survey, hunger incidence hit a record high 30.7 percent or 7.6 million Filipino families. 22% or 5.5 million families experienced moderate hunger while 8.7% or 2.2 million families suffered from severe hunger.

The groups also reiterated their demands including the P10,000 cash assistance, P15,000 production subsidy and P75 B budget for NFA palay procurement of 20% local palay production.

They are continuously gathering signatures for the petition calling for the repeal of RA 11203 and the enactment of HB 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) and urged the public for support.

“To genuinely ensure food security, it is essential for the government to boost local production, protect agricultural lands from conversion, and ensure production subsidies, free irrigation and post-harvest facilities. A country could only be food secure if it is self-sufficient and self-reliant and the food is accessible and affordable for all,” Amihan secretary general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

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