Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

DA hit for blaming high rice prices on farmers

DIGOS CITY, Philippines -- A farmers group here lashed back at the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday for blaming farmers for the soaring price of rice in Mindanao.

Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Emmanuel Paras had earlier accused farmers of holding on to their harvests in anticipation of higher farmgate prices. Paras categorized this as "speculation."
But Jaime Mantilla, president of the San Agustin Ruparan Barangay Irrigators Development Association (SARBIDA) here, questioned how this was possible since farmers were in immediate need of money from their harvest to pay their creditors.

"Farmers could not suspend selling palay since they have existing debts to rice traders that have to be paid on time," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
Mantilla said whatever rice stocks farmers have kept were for consumption by their families.
He said, for example, that he has set aside 15 sacks from this season's harvest.

"Nobody among our 400 members has stocked more than that," Mantilla said.

He said the DA missed the reality that traders were the ones causing the skyrocketing prices of rice.

"Traders have the capacity because of their big warehouses, not the poor farmers who only have small houses that are not even large enough to accommodate 50 sacks," Mantilla said.

The militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines, KMP) also lambasted Paras for adding insult to injury.

Pedro Arnado, vice chair of KMP in Southern Mindanao, said rice farmers have been suffering from the situation and yet were being blamed for it.

"Instead of blaming the poor farmers, it should expose the rice cartels, the hoarders, who are in government or are protected by high-ranking government officials," Arnado said.

"The DA should be ashamed for its obvious bias against the sector that it was to serve, for passing on the blame to the people when it should in fact hang itself for its inutility to solve the rice crisis, just like its big boss in MalacaƱang," he said.

Arnado also dismissed as "ludicrous" Paras' statement that farmers are now "tech-savvy" and were able to access the Internet.

As the debate on who was to blame for the rising price of the continued, Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas met with rice millers and traders in the province and asked them to set a selling price of P43.50 for the more expensive varieties and P41.50 for ordinary varieties.

Cagas made the decision after the millers presented a computation on the total cost of palay procurement, milling and delivery to the markets.

Traders said they buy palay at P22 per kilo and then spend P2.50 per kilo on transport.They said they still have to mill and polish it to become commercial rice before delivery to their sellers.
One trader told the Inquirer the real cost of polishing palay into good commercial rice would run up to P30 per kilo.

"I asked millers to compute their buying and production costs but even if they spent about P30 per kilo, the price in the markets should still not reach P44," Cagas said.

In Digos, good commercial rice is priced at P47 to P49 per kilo.

Cagas also said based on the admission of traders, there was no rice shortage.

The traders vowed to support Cagas' suggested rice.(Reports from Ryan D. Rosauro, Chris V. Panganiban, Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez, Aquiles Z. Zonio, Jeffrey Tupas, Orlando B. Dinoy, Eldie S. Aguirre, Inq.net)

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