“The Asian Development Bank (ADB) should stop pushing for the privatization of the NFA, especially since it revealed in its own study that increases in the prices of basic commodities such as food, especially rice, and fuel translates to the further impoverishment of millions of Filipinos,” said Lita Mariano, spokesperson of Bantay Bigas (Rice Monitor) “Instead”, she added, “it should support the NFA mandate of purchasing 10% of local farmers’ palay produce and ensure the distribution of majority of the Filipinos’ staple at an affordable price.
The ADB study cited by Mariano, Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia, reported that a 10% hike in local food prices would add about 1.37 million to the ranks of the poor. Higher food price increases of 20% and 30%, meanwhile, would push 2.75 million and 4.12 million, respectively, into poverty. Meanwhile, a 10% increase in the price of rice would push an additional 660,000 Filipinos deeper into poverty.
Bantay Bigas also countered the ADB claim that prices of rice have been falling by 0.9% since June 2010. Citing data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Mariano said “Prices for all rice grades have been rising albeit in small percentages by a monthly average of 1.32% from June 2010 to date.”
The price for regular milled rice (RMR) – the lowest grade rice – continues to increase by a monthly average of 1.01% since June 2010. The national average price or RMR as of March 2011 is Php31.22 from Php30.91 in June 2011.
“Worse, rice distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA) has increased by 8% when NFA rice prices increased by Php2.00 in December 2010 from Php25.00/kilo to Php27.00/kilo. Unfortunately, there is hardly any rice priced at Php27.00/kilo in the market today”, laments Mariano.
“The increase in the price of NFA rice is part of government’s plan to privatize the country’s food agency in response to decades-old conditions imposed by the ADB along with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and USAid in exchange for loans for various government agricultural programs”, claims Mariano.
For example, the US$175 million ADB loan for the Grains Sector Development Program in 1999 pushed for NFA privatization. In particular, ADB sought for the privatization of rice importation, suspending NFA support for palay, increasing the price of NFA rice, removing cash incentives for farmers, and privatizing the NFA’s non-grains facilities and services. The ADB discontinued the loan after the first tranche of US$30 million when the Philippines failed to immediately implement the said conditions.The group blamed the policy impositions of the ADB on their loans (as well as those of other multilateral donor agencies) to the government for the worsening poverty and hunger of the Filipinos. “Development policies of privatization, deregulation of government functions and services aimed at helping the poor Filipinos access basic social services and vital public utilities at affordable prices have rendered such essential necessities beyond their reach” said Mariano.#eof#