AGHAM- Advocates of Science and Technology deplores President-elect BBM’s self-appointment as the new Secretary of the Department of Agriculture when he has not laid down a concrete agenda in addressing the worsening food crisis and insecurity in the country.

His promise of lowering the price of a kilo of rice to twenty pesos during his presidential candidacy is nothing but a hollow promise to consumers. Rice production in the country is not currently being subsidized by the government, while the Rice Liberalization Law has not significantly contributed to increasing the productivity of farmers. Based on the findings of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice), there was even a fall in the prices of dry palay by PhP 3.24/kg from August 2018 to August 2019, which is equivalent to a loss in the income of farmers of PhP 2,869/ha or PhP 61.77B at the national level.[1] 

BBM has failed to understand the complexity of the value chain of the rice industry.He failed to factor in the structural problems of our local agricultural sector, such as the prevalence of landlessness of the majority of the farming sector, the absence of state support for strategic infrastructures (e.g. mechanization for production and postharvest technology), and the availability of the market system. 

In the 2020 study of the cost and return of rice retailing made by the PRRI, the retail price of rice is almost half of what is being claimed by BBM with a selling price of palay at PhP 16.31 kg to the selling price of the traders at wholesale is PhP 38.51/kg and at 40.75 at retail. [1] According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the cost of palay production is around PhP 48,000 per hectare for the wet season and PhP 46,650 per hectare. 

Even with a conservative computation of production costs, the retail price of rice will not reach PhP 20.00/kilo. If we only consider the major agricultural processes removing middle players such as traders, the succeeding table presents the actual retail price of the rice. 

The situation of the rice industry in the Philippines is a manifestation of the worsening crisis of thelocal agriculture as the country’s food security and self-sufficiency has been distorted by the globalization policies. 

BBM must first recognize the historical trend of state abandonment of our local agriculture. One of the distinct periods was during the time of his father’s regime with the implementation of Masagana 99. Farmers under this program went bankrupt due to unjust loans, while their farmland became degraded due to heavy usage of chemicals. 

In addressing the country’s food insecurity, BBM must reverse the current import-dependency and export-orientation of local agriculture.Our consumption of a staple commodity such as rice must not be dependent on imports while we allow most of our top quality agricultural produce to be  exported. Of equal importance is granting land to the tillers and food producers through genuine agrarian reform and the necessary support in order for them to produce food for the Filipino people. Agricultural modernization must also be fulfilled in the context of national industrialization to accelerate agricultural development.#

[1] How to make farmers winners under the rice tariffication regime, Rice Science for Decision Makers, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Volume. 9, October 2019

[2]  Alice B. Mataia; Beltran, JC; Manalili, R.G; Catudan, B.M; Francisco, N.M, and Flores, A.C. 2020. Rice Value Chain Analysis in the Philippines: Value Addition,Constraints, and Upgrading Strategies, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development Volume 17, Number 2 


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