What you can do to help Filipino rice farmers
MANILA, Philippines – Local rice farmers are suffering and are on the losing end since the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Philippine Rice Tariffication law.
Among those struggling is Gorgonio "Miguel" Ferrer, a rice farmer from Pangasinan. Due to the rice tariffication law, he has been struggling to make ends meet. He is seriously considering giving up farming as he only earns a profit of P183.96 per day.
Gorgonio's daughter Jette Banatao shares in a Facebook post their difficult experience and disappointment on the enactment of the rice tariffication law.
"Kaya bang bumuhay ng isang pamilya ang ganito? Mapapag-aral ang kanyang mga anak? Sinong anak ang gugustuhing magpatuloy na magsaka kapag ganito ang paiiralin ng mga namumuno?" asked Banatao.
(Can families survive on this? How can they send their children school? What child would want to continue farming if their situation is like this?)
With the rice tariffication law, farmers earn less as farmgate prices of palay can drop as low as P7 per kilo from P12 per kilo.
The objective of the rice tariffication law was to ensure food security, make the country’s agricultural sector viable and globally competitive by using tariffs, and stabilize food prices and inflation.
However, Jaime Tadeo from Paragos-Pilipinas described the law as the “engine killer of the economy” since local markets of municipalities and other industries are dependent on the rice industry to earn money. Through the rice tariffication law, rice importation is allowed and uninhibited. The influx of cheap imported rice is threatening local produce.
The government's economic team estimated that the rice tariffication law would make the prices dip to as low as P27 per kilo, this is not the case.
Farmer Trinidad Domingo from Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) pointed out that the passing of the law was a sad moment for Filipino farmers because they were losing money despite their hard work. According to Domingo, it takes 50 kilos of rice to earn 400 pesos within a 4-month harvesting season.
Various organizations and netizens have slammed the rice tariffication law, pointing out how Filipino farmers were severely affected by its implementation.
Bantay Bigas said that the law had a negative impact on Filipino farmers, highlighting the need to address the issue as soon as possible.
“We have been warning against this prior to the enactment of the law, and now we are now facing the destruction of the rice farmers, the primary productive force of our national rice industry,” they said in a statement.
Other farming advocacy groups have taken to social media to show their disapproval of the rice tariffication law using the hashtags #JunkRiceLiberalization and #DefendPHAgri.
How to help
As an ordinary citizen, what can we do to help Filipino rice farmers?
Here are 6 ways to contribute the cause:
1. Urge local government units to buy from local farmers
Especially with the wide reach of local government units, former National Food Authority (NFA) chief Renan Dalisay suggested that one way people can help Filipino farmers is to lobby to their local government units to buy local rice.
This will help ensure a stable income for Filipino farmers, and receive a constant demand for their products with reasonable prices. Dalisay noted that people can lobby to their local government units to buy from Filipino farmers for P20 per kilo and sell these in their local markets for P40 per kilo.
2. Buy locally produced rice instead of imported rice
To help support rice farmers, people can also opt to buy rice locally instead of getting imported brands.
Dalisay added that more sales of rice will create more demand. It will also motivate farmers to produce more goods.
Ibon Foundation highlighted that the dependency on imported rice can cause harm to Philippine society. Local rice should always be the priority.
"What if the global market players jack up prices or restrict supply? Where do we source our rice if the local rice industry is already dead? We should directly support our rice farmers and strengthen the local rice industry instead of relying on imports for our staple," they said.
3. Set up a market for local farmers
Filipino farmers go through a rigorous process when selling their local goods. By setting up a market for these farmers to directly sell their goods to consumers, this will cut the bureaucracy involved, thus becoming easier for farmers to earn income.
Session Groceries also suggested to make events around the country in order to create a market for local farmers to sell their goods. This could be online or on ground. Session Groceries, for example, bridges consumers to Filipino farmers in order to sell their local goods.
4. Volunteer in an organization
Join outreach programs or activities or volunteer in an organization that focuses on helping local farmers. Session Groceries, for example, is currently accepting volunteers to help Filipino farmers and to expand their network of farmers within the country. You can volunteer for their organization by joining the Facebook group Helping Local Farmers or message Session Groceries on Facebook.
Another organization where you can volunteer is Rice Pinas where it aims to unite and empower consumers by giving them options on where to buy rice as direct from our farmers as possible. You can volunteer for their organization by joining the Facebook group Rice Pinas Volunteers or message Rice Pinas on Facebook.
5. Ask companies to buy produce from local farmers
Another way you can help out farmers is to reach out to companies and set up an arrangement. There are other companies that follow a farm to table approach, which could be implemented even in restaurants in your city.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute pointed out that local grocery stores, restaurants, canteens, among others, can partner with cooperatives or farmers' groups in their community and deal with them as suppliers.
They pointed out that the regular demand from bulk buys can help local groups stand a better chance of flourishing.
Rice Pinas organizes weekend markets where cooperatives and farmer organizations are given an opportunity to sell their products.
UPROOT Philippines, for example, partnered with Farmers Producers Cooperative of Victoria Tarlac and Aglipay to sell Premium Long Grain Jasmine 160 and Brown rice from Nueva Ecija. You may order their products through this form and through Rice Pinas weekend markets.
Session Groceries highlighted that this effort can sustain the livelihood of the farmers as there is a continuous demand for their products.
6. Share and amplify information about local farmers
Session Groceries part owner Iloisa Romaraog Diga also expounded that awareness on the issue is essential by sharing posts on social media and sparking a conversation within communities. –Rappler.com