RP Seeks WB Help on Rice Imports

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:05:00 04/29/2008

The Philippines has asked the World Bank to persuade rice-exporting nations to lift shipment curbs that threaten the food security of importing countries, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said Monday.

"I have asked the World Bank if it's possible to use its moral persuasion, its stature, its influence to talk to the supplier countries," Yap said on television.

He noted that exporters seemed to be afraid to release their rice into the international market. "It's going against pricing. We need to convince them that they must release the flow of supply," he said.

Rice exporting countries such as India and Vietnam have banned exports of Asia's staple to cool domestic inflation, putting pressure on the Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, which is trying to secure stockpiles ahead of a traditional lean period in the third quarter.

The Philippines said it would import 2.1 million metric tons of rice this year...

RP demand pushes prices up

The Philippines' recent flurry of rice tenders has helped propel rice prices to record highs and Yap said the country was looking at ways of buying stocks without alerting the world to how much it needs, as currently happens in public bidding, propelling the cost higher.

"There is a lot of concern that tendering big volumes at this point in time tends to increase prices," said Yap.

"We want to explore a procurement or buying system that is not going to expose us to the speculative pricing attacks that we see right now in the international commodity markets," he said, without giving further details...

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Read also, "Arroyo eyes cutback in government rice subsidy".

Sometimes the best help one can extend to someone asking for it is not to give in to the specifics of the demand. There are times when what appears to be a solution to a problem would turn out to be a mere "crutch" that could even cause the further delaying of a complete rehabilitation.

When one is recovering from a limb injury, it is painful and hard to learn to walk again using one's own muscle strength than relying on the strength of a crutch. But it is the only way for the injured limb to regain its strength and coordination -- or else it will stiffen and remain paralyzed for the rest of one's life.

Our nation is not born lame. We can walk again normally on our own strength from this injury (the less prioritization of our agriculture sector and the collective neglect by our past and present leaders), if only we would realize that it is rehabilitation that we long overdue needed and not an overly used crutch.

Maybe the Philippines is asking help from the wrong "specialist". Perhaps we should be going to the "physical therapist" instead of to the "craftsman". We have long been overdue for rehabilitation because we are so afraid to let go of this crutch.

At this point in time, rice importations by the NFA must be stopped. NFA should focus on procuring supply from the local farmers' harvest and NFA must set the purchase price so as to establish a reasonable competitive floor price for other rice traders.

There will be initial reactions among various concerned sectors of the society but these self-adjustments are necessary. When these happen, we will see the ingenuity and resilience of our people cope with the new situation. Watch how the stocks of rice will flow out and normalize the market and watch how the prices of rice will gradually stabilize in time. Price stabilization is the first positive step, and price levels may be brought down later little by little as better ways of reducing production costs and more efficient means of delivery are discovered and implemented.

In times of food crisis, leaders should be focusing primarily on the security of food rather than on the security of their stay in office. True leaders are often tested most during times of crisis -- self-sacrifice could show as their hidden virtue.