September 28, 2023

With all those restaurants selling unlimited rice on a daily basis and with consumers being able to buy affordable rice, one would think that we have no production of grains in our country. We are being lulled into a false sense of security.
A few months ago, the country was experiencing a shortage in the supply of rice that the supply of commercial rice breached an all-time high. The best quality was selling at P80 per kilo while the lowest quality was selling at P40 per kilo. It was quite steep for the ordinary wage earners.
To remedy the situation, the administration lifted the tariffication in the importation of rice. This was done in order to flood the market with grains. With more supply, the cheaper it will cost. In a way, the strategy proved effective because we are now having an abundance of affordable rice.
Tariffication means the imposition of taxes on goods that are being brought into the Philippines from other countries. It is a form of custom duties that is assessed and collected against products that are being imported in our country. This is done in order to raise the necessary revenues for the expenditures of the government. It is also to impose a quota on products that are coming from abroad so that it will not unfairly compete with local products. In short, it is a measure of protecting local industries and local producers. To lift the rice tariffication means to remove the taxes due to rice that are brought into the Philippines from other countries.
As a result, we have more rice. In fact, it was reported that the Philippines is now the number one importer of rice, more than any other rice consuming nation in the world, more than China, more than Korea, more than Vietnam. For consumers, this is good because the staple is cheap. Yet, the effect may only be superficial since an abundance of imported rice is as disadvantageous to an agricultural country like ours, as it is harmful to Filipino farmers.
The main source of livelihood of approximately 60 percent of our people lies in agricultural industries like farming, fishing, poultry, and the like. They rely on government subsidy and a stable market for their continued survival. Now, if the government that is supposed to protect them will be the one to create an unfair competition against them, like the lifting of the tariffication on cereals and grains, it is not hard to see what will happen in the near future.
No wonder, our farmers are crying foul. No wonder, they are losing their livelihoods. No wonder, they no longer want their children to be farmers or fishermen or herders or cattle breeders. There is no government sympathy for these kinds of workers. Instead, they are selling their carabaos, mortgaging their homesteads, and moving to the city to see to it that their children become lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses and other college degree holder that has nothing to do with farming. For some, they’d prefer their children to work abroad as domestic helpers rather than ending up as farmers like them.
We are losing our character as an agricultural country. We are losing our farmers. Whereas before, farming, fishing, and other jobs that have something to do with agriculture were looked upon as noble calling, it is not so these days. Filipinos used to burn their backs under the scorching sun to put food on the table. These days, they are inside offices, malls, and factories earning a daily wage to buy the imported rice that is fed to them on an unlimited basis. They gobble it up because it is cheap. Our people used to be healthy and hale. Now, they are obese, overweight, or have high blood.
Number one country in the importation of rice? Should we take that as a compliment? Must we pride ourselves because of that? The government is killing the agricultural sector. True, we need rice to feed our people, but should we not teach our people to produce their own rather than rely on a short-term oversupply of rice which, as sure as day, will run out as soon as the tariffication is reimposed? And believe me, the tariffication will be reimposed sooner or later because this is the right thing to do. Then what?
It is a fact that the Philippines pioneered and revolutionized the production of high-quality rice in the 1980s via scientific breakthroughs discovered by Filipino scientists. They then taught what they discovered at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Benguet State University (which was then known as the Mountain State Agricultural College). These breakthroughs greatly impressed agriculturists from Vietnam, China, Australia, and all other countries from where we buy grains that they came over to enroll in our state universities. The rice we buy from them is the result of what they learned from us. It is, therefore, a national shame that our only claim to victory in the reduction of poverty is that we are the number one importer of rice in the whole world.