DA wages campaign vs rice smuggling

Created on Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Department of Agriculture enjoins local chief executives, agriculturists, farm technicians and farmers to join the government’s campaign against smuggled rice, as it distorts fair trade, depresses prices of palay, and discourages farmers to plant rice.

“Malaking pinsala ang smuggling sa ating industriya ng bigas. Pinapatay nito ang patas na kalakaran na nagbubunga din ng pagbaba ng presyo ng ating mga palay. Nahihirapan at nawawalan ng gana tuloy ang ating mga magsasaka,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, during the ‘2nd Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers’ Awards,’ March 15, 2013, at the Philippine International Convention Center, in Pasay City.

This is the reason why the Aquino government is exerting efforts to clamp down on rice smuggling, which is a form of economic sabotage, the DA chief noted.

He thus called on all rice industry players and the general public to take part in a renewed campaign against rice smuggling, particularly so that the country is set to attain rice sufficiency this year.

“Makibahagi sana tayo na labanan ang ganitong mga gawain, lalo pa at nasa kamay na natin ang ating minimithing kasapatan sa bigas ngayong taon,” Secretary Alcala added.

Last month (February 22, 2013), a covenant against smuggling was forged by rice industry players in Luzon composed of farmer-leaders, rice millers, traders, and retailers, witnessed by Secretary Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Orlan Calayag.

This year, the country will still import rice to serve as buffer stock, at 187,000 metric tons, said Secretary Alcala. It is part of the 350,000 MT, which is the minimum volume of rice imports allowed by the Philippines under an agreement with other member-countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Philippines has greatly reduced its rice imports -- from a high of 2.45 million MT in 2010, 860,000 MT in 2011, and 500,000 MT last year -- as the Aquino government has successfully increased production of palay (unmilled rice) as a result of increasing infrastructure investments and annual DA budget.

National palay harvest has steadily grew from 15.77 million MT in 2010, to 16.68 million MT in 2011, and 18.03 million MT last year. The DA targets to produce more than 20 million tons this year, equivalent to 100 percent sufficiency

In his speech during the 2nd Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards, the DA chief also urged farmers, local officials and rice industry players to sustain and strengthen efforts to export premium, aromatic rice.

Further, he asked farmers to further reduce the cost of producing palay with the use of quality seeds, modern yet sustainable inputs and technologies, and postharvest facilities. This will enable them to compete with their counterparts in Thailand, Vietnam and other south east Asian countries, once the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) commences in 2015.

Finally, he asked the participants and the general public to be responsible rice consumers, and consider eating other staples like white corn, cassava, sweet potato and saba — which is part of the ‘National Year of Rice’ advocacy campaign. (Marlo Asis, DA Information Service)