According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the country is expecting a price decrease for rice following the government’s continuing talks with the major rice importing countries Vietnam and India. With an intention to import 500,000 metric tons of rice for this year, the clamor to holistically strengthen our own rice industry through farmer-led agroecology is once again ignored and neglected by the Philippine government.
“Our overreliance on rice importation to address our local rice shortage is very dangerous as we have been observing a decline of global rice production in the past few years up to present. There is no certainty that these major rice importing countries can sustainably supply our rice in the coming years ahead as the effects of climate change,soil degradation and decline of genetic diversity thru conventional farming, and economic crises drastically affect everyone’s local rice production” said Alfie Pulumbarit, MASIPAG national coordinator.
“Moreover, we have seen a global trend for exporting countries implementing their own protectionist policies to secure their supply of food should they no longer be capable of importing it, case in point with rice. This should already have been a wake up call to the Philippine government to invest in farmer-led agroecology as it is the most apt means to withstand the manifold crises the world is facing right now.” added Pulumbarit.
On the other hand, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban announced that the government is also working with the government of India “to allow imports (to continue) on humanitarian grounds.”
“India’s rice export ban would basically drive up local price of rice. This is a consequence of failed program for self-sufficiency and unabated imports depressing local farmgate prices. Farmers are now leaving rural communities as rice farming is no longer tenable in ensuring a means for livelihood to support their families. The government should have also blocked the passage of the Rice Liberalization Law in the first place for ‘humanitarian grounds’” , added Pulumbarit. “The Philippines is also expecting to import a total of 3.9MMT of rice this year, a record high.” he added.
Since the onset of the green revolution in the 1960s under the banner of MASAGANA 99, Philippine rice farming has been predominantly chemical and capital intensive making the current hurdles of rice farming today, such as degraded soil, unreasonably high cost production, and overall inability to produce meaningful surplus production that benefits local economy, as expected rather than unintended consequence.
This year, the Philippine government is stubbornly geared to implement the same MASAGANA program. With billions of budget at its disposal, it aims to cover almost 2 million hectares of rice land with chemical dependent hybrid rice and another 52,000 hectares more with genetically modified Golden Rice that also uses the same chemical production. Back in 2009, a senate inquiry was prompted regarding the massive crop failure observed in DA’s hybrid rice program. On the other hand, observations from the harvest of GMO Golden Rice from its pilot deployment areas earlier this year suggests its severely underperforming yield.
“The Philippine government should have instead allocated these resources and huge parcels of lands directly to our farmers that clearly have more knowledge and skill in terms of sustainable and more climate-apt means of rice farming, rather than these built to fail packages of technologies proliferated by huge agrochemical corporations.” ended Pulumbarit.
For more than three decades, farmer members of MASIPAG all around the country have been practicing farmer-led agroecology which conserves and utilizes improved farmer-bred and traditional rice seeds that can withstand the effects of climate change as well as adapt to their own climatic conditions. Paired with their rigorous and continuously adapting skills in sustainable organic agriculture through farmer-to-farmer exchange of knowledge, MASIPAG farmers have also effectively become the conservers of soil health and balanced ecology in general. Moreover, MASIPAG farmers adhere to the principles of food sovereignty where they prioritizes local food security through their own farm produced goods, and in return strengthening local economy, rather than depending on imported crops.