Magtanim ay 'di biro
“Magtanim ay ’di biro
’Di man lang makatayo
'Di man lang makaupo."
Indeed, planting rice in the Philippines has never been fun to most Filipino rice farmers, as the popular folk song goes.
And that's because we failed to modernize rice farming in the Philippines. The problems now being traced to the Rice Tariffication Law have been there for years, so it would be wrong to blame this new law for the decades-old problems in the rice sector.
Rice production hasn't been able to keep up with our relatively high population growth, resulting in the Philippines becoming the world's largest rice importer in recent years.
The Rice Tariffication Law comes with a P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), but this may have come a little too late.
With the entry of cheaper imported rice (even with 35 percent tariff), local palay prices have dropped in several areas, causing hardship to Filipino rice farmers and their families.
While the Rice Tariffication Law may turn out to be a loss to over 2 million Filipino rice farmers, it is turning out to be a boon to the over 100 million Filipino rice consumers. Inflation dropped to 1.7 percent in August, the slowest in 3 years partly because of low food prices.
Some economists suggest that the Rice Tariffication Law should be given more time. They say it may just be what the country needs to finally modernize its rice sector.
Unless we build the physical and social infrastructure needed to make our rice farms competitive--irrigation, mechanization, farm-to-market roads, farmers' training, strong cooperatives, drying facilities, marketing support, efficient bureaucracy, we will always be singing the same old, poor farmer song.