NEWS RELEASE

February 12, 2018

NFA stands for “No Food Authority”

Farmers present doable solutions to the ‘rice problem’

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in a press conference today called on peasant groups nationwide to step up militant protest actions to push the Duterte government to seriously address the issues besetting the domestic rice industry and put a stop to the policy of rice importation that has long proven to be detrimental to local rice production, the livelihood of millions of Filipino farmers, and the country’s food self-sufficiency and security.

Some 365,000 metric tons of imported rice under the minimum access volume is scheduled to arrive anytime this month, just weeks before the start of the first harvest season. Malacanang recently approved the importation of another 250,000 metric tons of imported rice after NFA’s supposedly dwindling supply.

“Let us set the record straight, it is not true that Filipinos would go hungry if the government would not import rice from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. In fact, rice importation has been hurting the local rice industry and the rice farmers, and has caused the consistent upward trend of rice prices ever since the country started importing rice massively in 1995. The Philippines is an agricultural country. We do not need to import rice from abroad. Our farmers can feed the entire population if only they are given the much-needed support they deserve,” says Danilo Ramos, chairperson of KMP.

“Over the past weeks we saw how the No Food Authority (National Food Authority) has deviously orchestrated an artificial rice shortage to hasten rice importation. Details of the latest NFA racket of supply hoarding, price fixing and selling of imported rice to commercial traders was recently exposed. We challenge Malacanang and Duterte to dismantle the mafia inside NFA and arrest scrupulous rice traders syndicating the rice supply and manipulating rice prices,” said peasant leader who also reminded the public on the still unresolved 2013 Rice Scam in which the NFA procured overpriced imported rice by as much as Php450 million per transaction.

According to KMP, steadily rising rice prices will worsen the national hunger. The group is proposing the following concrete solutions to the problems besetting the rice industry:

1)    Impose urgent price control on rice prices;

2)    Junking of the policy of rice importation;

3) The government should genuinely develop the rice industry by extending production support, post-harvest facilities and other assistance to rice farmers;

4)  The NFA should achieve its mandate of procuring rice from local rice farmers at a beneficial price;

5)  Implementation of an accelerated free irrigation program that would irrigate the remaining 43 percent non-irrigated rice and farmlands across the country;

6)  Stopping of massive land-use conversion that converts rice and farmlands to other uses like real estate use of private businesses and plantations;

7)    Implement a genuine agrarian reform program that will distribute lands to the tillers at no cost, provide state support to land reform beneficiaries, and spur agricultural production and rural industrialization;

8)    Stop the liberalization of the rice industry;

9)    Stop the operation of the rice cartel;

10) Development and support of peasant cooperatives.

“These are just a few of the immediate doable solutions that Duterte can implement to address the hunger problem and issues concerning the rice industry. Rice is a socially-sensitive commodity. Any upward tick in rice prices would affect the state of hunger and quality of life of Filipinos,” the peasant leader said.

We call on Congress to legislate a genuine Rice Industry Development Act, Accelerated National Irrigation Program and Genuine Agrarian Reform. These measures will also aid the local rice industry and millions of rice farmers.

KMP is set to led nationally-coordinated actions of rice farmers in NFA offices and warehouses nationwide in the coming weeks. ###