Rice Crisis in the Philippines
April 29, 2008, 3:07 am
Filed under: Food, Poverty | Tags: , , ,

I have been really busy with school recently so I have not been able to write much and yet, I have been keeping up the food crisis. In the Philippines, where state subsidization has kept the crisis at bay, there is little the government can do to keep up with the growing problem. Once a rise exporter, the Philippines now imports its agriculture, which invariably leaves the country and its poor to the whims of the international market. This Al-Jazeera clip and Associated Press article explain the most rudimentary steps that the government is taking to alleviate the strain on the poor. The real solution will be for the nation to start up its agricultural industry, something that will take time and resources and an abandonment of the neoliberal economic model that has encouraged countries like the Philippines to not grow rice and produce what it has a ‘comparative advantage’ in.

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine government plans to introduce “rice access cards” for the poor to use to buy cheaper subsidized grain to help stave off a wider food crisis, officials said Monday.

The rice cards are supposed to benefit the bottom third of the poorest families in the capital, Manila. Outside the capital, the government said it will distribute separate bank cash cards to help families in the poorest 20 of the country’s 81 provinces with quick money transfers.

The measures came as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration moved to cushion the impact of skyrocketing fuel and food prices. The Philippines has been paying record prices on international markets to make up for a 10 percent domestic shortfall in rice, the country’s staple.

Amid anxiety over adequate supplies of rice, the government said it has so far signed contracts for about half of the 2.1 million tons of rice it plans to import this year. The price of rice from Thailand, the world’s biggest exporter, topped US$1,000 (€640) per ton this month, up sharply from the start of the year.

The National Food Authority, the state-run grain importer, plans to hold a tender on May 5 for another 500,000 tons of rice.

Thailand said Friday it won’t restrict exports despite talk of a shortage. Some Asian countries, including Cambodia and Vietnam, recently curbed rice exports to guarantee their own supplies.

Arroyo also has declared war on rice hoarders, who are blamed for creating artificial shortages, and promised to improve distribution and invest US$1 billion (€750 million) to boost production.

About 40 percent of Filipinos live on less than US$2 (€1.28) a day, and about 13 percent — or 11 million — survive on less than US$1 (€0.64) a day.

Those in Manila will soon be given the rice cards, which will allow them to buy government-subsidized rice at 18 pesos (US$0.42; €0.27) a kilogram, compared to the current commercial price of 35 pesos (US$0.83; €0.53), Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.

She said distribution of the cards was delayed because many local governments failed to submit a list of recipients on time, while other lists included the names of dead people or nonexistent addresses.

Arroyo deputy spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said the president ordered Cabral on Monday to make sure there are no irregularities and only poor families benefit from the program.

The separate bank cash cards, which will be given to 300,000 of the poorest families in the provinces, will allow them to make bank withdrawals of 500 pesos (US$12; €7.6) a month plus 300 pesos (US$7; €4.5) for every child who logs at least 85 percent class attendance, Cabral said.

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