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Importation blamed for low rice, corn prices in the Philippines

Image: Yonhap. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

COTABATO CITY, Oct 3, 2020, PhilStar. Farmers now feel the brunt of the wanton importation of rice and corn, for them the cause of the continuing downslide in domestic prices of both cereal grains, The Philippine Star reported.

Some big firms in Mindanao producing animal feeds and cornstarch have long been importing corn from abroad.

There are corn farmers in Upi and South Upi towns in Maguindanao now thinking of suspending their October-December cropping activities, apprehensive of bigger losses.

“Our latest earnings were just enough for the seeds and fertilizers we loaned from traders and for paying laborers essential to propagation of corn in our farms,” said an enlisted soldier in a battalion under the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, who has a farm in Upi.

As of Friday, the price of dried corn in the two municipalities is only P9.70 per kilo, for farmers too low, their proceeds not enough to cover even just three-fourth of their expenses for land preparation, seeds and fertilizers.

“Many of us are now planning to suspend our next cropping activities. How can we sustain our families without income? We are in big trouble,” lamented farmer Rudio Ongab, a father of four grade school children.

Traders engaged in buy-and-sell of grains in the adjoining Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces are blaming the massive importation by big firms manufacturing animal feeds and other consumer goods using corn for the problem.

“This is a very serious problem that President Rodrigo Duterte should focus attention on,” said a Filipino-Chinese merchant in Upi.

Upi and its immediate neighbor, South Upi, are hinterland towns in Maguindanao where 90% of residents rely mainly on corn farming as their means of livelihood.

North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco on Saturday said she and her constituent-leaders are together in calling on the House of Representatives, the Senate and Malacañang to address the miserable plight now of rice and corn farmers everywhere.

“Thousands upon thousands of residents in North Cotabato are rice and corn farmers,” Catamco said.

Catamco and local officials in Mlang discussed the issue with rice farmers in the municipality on Friday where the governor asked for an immediate amendment of the 2019 Rice Tariffication Law, or RTL.

The RTL allows massive importation of rice from abroad as a remedy to local supply shortages.

“This is something the legislature should look into,” said Catamco, who had served as a North Cotabato congressional representative for three consecutive terms before she was elected governor of the province in May 2019.

“This RTL is disadvantageous to local rice farmers. Likewise, the continuing importation of corn for years now is also not good for local corn farmers,” Catamco said.

Dozens of farmers carried placards bearing appeals for help from the legislature as they converged on Friday in Mlang, North Cotabato to dramatize their woes.

A farmer in Mlang, Gualberto Sison, told reporters during the engagement that what is painful for him and other farmers is that the price of dried palay now in the province is only P14 per kilo.

“Imagine? Price of palay per kilo is only like that, a food item. The price of commercial facemask needed to prevent one from being infected with COVID-19 is higher,” Sison said.

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