MANILA, Philippines – Bantay Bigas, a rice price monitoring group comprised of rice industry multistakeholders recently urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to stop pushing for the privatization of the National Food Authority in face of an increasing trend in the price of rice, the country’s staple.
To counter ADB claims that the price of rice dropped by 0.9% since June 2010, the group cited Bureau of Agriculture Statistics data showing that rice prices in fact increased by an average of 1.2% for all rice grades. The price of NFA rice also went up by Php 2.00 or 8% in December 2010. Thus, the P25 per-kilo NFA rice is no longer available in the market, further making the staple less affordable to poor Filipinos.
“The increase in the price of NFA rice is an impact of government’s plan to privatize the country’s food agency in response to conditions imposed by the ADB and other international lending institutions,” Bantay Bigas spokesperson Lita Mariano said. Among several such loans the group noted the 1993 Food Sector Loan Program and the 1999 Grains Sector Development Program of the ADB which both pushed for NFA privatization including the privatization of the NFA’s local palay procurement and rice importation functions as well as the increase of the price of NFA rice.
“The ADB itself revealed in a study that increases in food prices push more Filipinos into poverty, therefore it should stop pushing for the privatization of the NFA and instead support the agency in fulfilling its mandate of ensuring distribution of the basic staple at affordable prices,” Mariano said.
According to the ADB, a 10% hike in local food prices would add 1.37 million to the ranks of the poor, and even higher food price increases would push even more into poverty.
Bantay Bigas, of which IBON is a secretariat member, is set to launch this month a transcript of the National Rice People’s Congress (NPRC) which it held last February. The NPRC highlights summative reports of consultative exchanges it held with various rice industry multistakeholders in Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao. It also yielded a unity pact by participants, one urgent demand of which is bringing back to the market the Php18.25 per kilo NFA rice and increasing the NFA’s palay procurement by restoring its budget of at least Php8 million.