Importing rice and imposing lower tariff are short-term solutions to high prices, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Friday, noting that focus on increasing farmers’ income is the more effective way in the long term.
“Rice is also a kind of driver of inflation. When rice prices increase, the prices of other food items also tend to increase. When the rice supply is mismanaged, rice prices rise, becoming inflationary, and pulling up the prices of all other agriculture products and other basic commodities,” said the former presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization.
Pangilinan said focusing on farmers’ incomes also addresses poverty and hunger.
“Pag tumataas ang presyo ng bigas, ang resulta nyan ay gutom. Dahil lalo na sa ating mga kababayang mahihirap, 70% ng kanilang gastusin ay pagkain. Pero doon sa pagkain na 70%, 30% ay sa bigas. So pagka tumaas ang presyo ng bigas, hindi na kakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw ang mga kababayan nating mahihirap,” he said.
(“When rice prices go up, the result is hunger. Especially for impoverished Filipinos, 70% of their expenses are spent on food. Of the 70%, 30% is spent on rice. So when rice prices increase, they don’t eat three square meals a day.”)
Pangilinan is reacting to the rice tariffication bill in Congress. The measure seeks to remove the prescribed import volume on rice and open the market to private traders.
Initially, lowering the tariff can bring in cheap agricultural products in the country, which could stave off the soaring prices of goods, said Pangilinan, a farmer himself.
However, he pointed out, the long-term solution is adequate supply and rice self-sufficiency.
“Strategically, lowering the tariffs can bring in cheap agricultural products to address inflation. But in the long run, what you really need to address is greater supply brought about by greater farm productivity. You have to increase your productivity. And increasing productivity is really focusing on farmers’ incomes,” Pangilinan said.
He noted that the high prices of goods is a result of many factors, including the TRAIN law and limited supply.
“Hindi talaga tayo sufficient at this time. And, rice sufficiency is, again, a function of support for your farmers to be able to yield more, produce at less cost and yielding more. So, pagka-tinarify mo yung bigas… dapat mabalik sa mga support services for our farmers, so that they are able to produce more,” he said.