Rice crisis artificial, says Angara

Collusion between traders, NFA execs reported
By Charlie Señase, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:41:00 03/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Edgardo Angara Sunday said the present rice crisis was “artificial” and was caused by hoarders and unscrupulous traders.

Philippine Daily Inquirer reports from the provinces indicated that rice hoarders were in collusion with some managers of National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses, who diverted tens of thousands of bags of cheap rice which were re-bagged and sold at higher commercial prices.

Angara said the country was actually facing “a rice distribution crisis” and that the panic was being fanned by the hoarders themselves who anticipate a rise in prices.

Angara, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and a former agriculture secretary, warned against imposing knee-jerk solutions to the problem, saying the situation would likely be resolved with this summer’s harvest and coming major shipments from Vietnam.

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Of course, reaction such as this would be the first to happen prior to the occurrence of crisis. Government should not adopt an attitude of denial. They should act now while there is still time left (less than three years before crisis). Focus on production rather than importation.

If there is anything that this administration can do for the nation that has real and direct impact on the lives of the people -- especially to the lowest class of the society -- it would be food security.

When the food crisis comes, all the gains on the other areas of the economy will greatly be diminished (if not wiped out), but the administration will not regret if they would focus and prioritize more the nation's food production.

The following are urgently needed because of the constraint of time:

1. Device ways to stop the unscrupulous conversion by large land owners their agricultural lands into commercial lands. They do it in order to evade Land Reform. Our Land Reform laws are so full of loopholes.

2. Subsidize the farmers production inputs and implements to augment their production. This is wiser than subsidizing the importation of NFA rice.

3. Conduct an aggressive campaign for food production. Offer real and good incentives for anyone who may wish to prioritize investing in food production.

4. Punish those unscrupulous food cartels and corrupt government employees who are involved in irregular food supply manipulations.

5. Nothing kills quickly our local production of food and other agricultural products than cheap imported products from other countries. If imported products are allowed without appropriate control to come in and compete with the products of our local producers, surely they will easily be discouraged to pursue their trade. We must patronize first our own local products in order for the nation to survive. Let us endure for a while the quality and quantity of our own products. It won't be too long and we can compete with the quality and quantity of the imported products. Therefore, control wisely the importation of food and other agricultural products. If necessary, allow imports only of those products which cannot be produced locally. Only if there is real need, allow minimal quantities of those imports of high quality products which can be produced locally (this is to encourage local producers to set their production standard to the level of quality of the imported products).

Our nation and our people can still make it before the crisis comes. And it will greatly depend on the leadership of the present administration, and on the cooperation of the people -- we all must follow. We all will suffer if we do not act now!

Isn't this a God-given opportunity for the administration (and for our nation) to redeem themselves (and ourselves) from the wrongdoings they (we also) have done to the nation? If they can't see it as a "blessing in disguise", then woe to them.

In our struggle with the stubborn problem of corruption, I have observed that many of us have started to become experts in criticism. If the Lord will not shorten our days in criticism, soon we will become mere talkers rather than also doers.