Monday, May 05, 2008

GMA feeling secure over rice importation?

I don't know what kind of economist is Gloria in the Palace. As Malaya reports:

Arroyo on Friday said the Philippines has concluded contracts with Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries for 1.2 million metric tons of rice. The volume, she said, is "enough to cover the 10 percent differential which is our production and consumption."

She said the country is buying more rice only for "buffer stocks."

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap also Friday said government would try to maintain at least a 30-day inventory of stocks during the third quarter, a traditionally lean period for rice supplies.

"We are going to enter July with 32 days inventory so we will continue procuring to keep buffer stocks at 30 days," he said.

He echoed Arroyo's statement, saying the National Food Authority has bought enough imported rice to meet domestic demand and remaining tenders will go to boosting buffer stocks.

Hanggang ganyan na lang ba talaga ang kayang arukin ng pag-iisip ni Gng. Arroyo? Or is she just doing a Rovian Tactic to hide some things from the public? PolitechWatch (see also Biklish) has this conclusion:

It should be noted that early this year, the Arroyo Government has been assuring the public that there is no rice shortage in the country. Even independent economic analysts have been forecasting the same as the National Food Authority (NFA) had ample stocks to last for months and that the harvest season is yet to come. But when the Lozada expose on the ZTE Scandal became out of control, the government immediately shifted its stand and started carrying the issue of food security. This, in a way, became a clear Rovian tactic aimed at killing the messages thrown at the Arroyo Administration particularly on government mismanagement and rampant corruption.

True, the issue on food security is an issue that affects not only the Philippines but also the rest of the world. Even then, it cannot be said that the Arroyo government is just responding to the fact. First, when Mrs. Arroyo took over the reins of government, she already know that the trade imbalance with regards rice and other agricultural produce is already unfavorable to the country. As a matter of fact, the Philippines is already the largest importer of rice in the world. Still, she did nothing to correct this mess by at least giving special attention to the farmers.

Second, now that the country is already being threatened by food shortage, her policy is still leaning towards food importation. This had been made clear when the NFA's thrust for this year is to buy more rice from other countries rather than directly address the issue of high costs of production. The problem, rice producing countries like Thailand has instituted ban on exports of the staple food. To make the matters worse, other rice exporting countries also decided to form a cartel to regulate rice exports and prices. Thus, to quote Palawan Representative Abraham Mitra: What’s the use of your money if no rice is available at any price overseas? It’s like looking for water in the desert. You may be willing to exchange a bar of gold for a cup of water but it’s totally worthless if there’s not a single drop around.

Third, the sincerity of the government is also lacking as until now, no member of the local rice cartel has been caught and punished. What Arroyo government had been boasting in the last few weeks is the apprehension of the “Mosquito Gang” in Isabela – a loose organization of rice traders who are known for stocking a few hundred sacks of rice. What it failed to catch are the giant rice hoarders some of whom are known to be the members of “Binondo 9” – also a loose organization of rice traders known for hoarding tons of rice.

The sincerity is also lacking as the Arroyo government failed to catch rice smugglers. To note, in addition to the regular anti-smuggling agencies, Mrs. Arroyo has also organized the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG). With the numerous anti-smuggling agencies of the government, how come there is no catch? Whether or not this just validate the rumors that some members of the first family are also involved in rice smuggling, nobody can tell. But one sure thing is that the PASG, one of highly financed agencies to eradicate smuggling, has concentrated its efforts mainly on curbing the smuggling of luxury cars rather than eliminating the smuggling of basic commodities. For this reason, rice smuggling continuous. If reports are to be believed, smuggled rice consists of 15-percent to 21-percent of the total rice imports of the country – a raison d'ĂȘtre of the Organization of Rice Exporting Countries. And this hurts more the local producers as their price becomes more and more uncompetitive due to the influx of smuggled rice.

Lastly, and the clearest evidence why the Arroyo Government is just warding off the issues on mismanagement and corruption, is her US$120 million (P5 billion) aid for the poor program. This she announced a few days ago with the idea of doling out a maximum of US$33 (PhP1,400) per poor family per month as an additional money to buy food for the table. In short, instead of addressing the root cause of the food security issue, Mrs. Arroyo will be issuing a placebo to show that she is a working president and thereby ward off the claims that are haunting her administration.

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