Roxas to gov't: Intercept rice diversion at the large scale, not 'tingi' level

Saturday, April 19, 2008 | posted in , , , , , , | 0 comments

Senator Mar Roxas said the government must focus its efforts to curb diversion of imported rice at the scale of large shipments, not in the markets, to ensure that the staple actually reaches the poorest of the poor who need it the most.
"Ang mga malalaking diversion ay nangyayari hindi sa palengke, ngunit sa pagpasok ng mga barko, pagdala ng bigas sa mga warehouse. The real diversion happens by the shipload and truckload, not just by the sack," Roxas said.

"Kailangang makita natin ang dinadaanan ng bigas mula sa pagpasok pa lang sa bansa. Itong mga raid-raid na ito ay pakitang tao lamang, o isang patingi-tinging solusyon," the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce added.
Roxas said he had already written Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap last April 10, asking for the following information:

1. The total volume of rice importation for 2008 including the list of importers and originating countries of these imports;

2. The pricing or cost of these imports per volume, for each source;

3. The schedule of each shipment, the type of cargo or vessels for these and their maximum tonnage, and the actual volume to be imported per shipment;

4. Drop-off points or ports for these shipments; and

5. A copy of the latest Rice Importation Contract with Vietnam.
"We are still awaiting Secretary Yap's response, which would shed light on how rice intended for the poorest of the poor is instead used for commercial purposes. With this knowledge, our authorities can better track down unscrupulous elements taking advantage of the dire situation," Roxas said.
He stressed however that urgent action was also needed with regard to domestic production of rice, in order to reduce dependence on imported grains.

He proposed the following to ensure a bountiful harvest, which would prevent the problem from recurring next year:

1. Strict enforcement of a moratorium on conversions of irrigated land, and an investigation on how much the government has spent on irrigation for these converted lands;

2. Ensuring that all of the inputs necessary—seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, among others—are made available to farmers;

3. Developing "small water impounding" irrigation systems, which cost only about P30,000 per hectare, versus large-scale irrigation through dams which costs P100,000 per hectare.

4. Opening up the Agusan river basin areas for planting, as these are ideal for planting rice; and

5. Investing in eliminating wastage in the drying of rice, estimated at 30% of annual consumption, which is more than enough to cover the NFA's importation of 2 million MT of rice or 17% of annual consumption.

Roxas also noted how the population increased by 16%, from 75.50 million in May 2000, to 88.57 million as of August 2007, and warned that the projected population by 2009 of 92.22 million would mean nearly 4 million more consumers in two years' time.
"Now that the government knows it has more mouths to feed, it must be more focused in ensuring food security by boosting domestic production. We can no longer rely on importing for rice, because excess supply from abroad is hard to come by, and at great cost," Roxas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, said.

"We can’t say that our domestic production for rice has increased likewise. In fact, we are importing over 2 million metric tons this year, above the 1.2 million MT we had been importing in previous years," he added.

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