Seven of the country’s rice-producing provinces are the same provinces with large numbers of farmers’ cooperatives that are importing the Filipino people’s main staple food.
No less than Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the influential Senate committee on agriculture, described the situation as funny and ironical, adding “Naloloka ako.”
And we agree with Villar that these provinces – Bulacan, Occidental Mindoro, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte and Pampanga – should not be importing rice.
She expressed her grave concerns over the involvement of farmers cooperatives as well as irrigation associations on the importation of a significant volume of rice into the country.
Citing her research, Villar said farmers’ coops and irrigation associations imported 1.017 metric tons of rice last year, making the country the world’s biggest rice importer.
Under Republic Act (RA) No. 11203, otherwise known as the rice tariffication law, traders can import unlimited volumes of the grains. But these traders have to pay higher tariffs if they buy the grains from outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
For 2020, these cooperatives and associations have so far imported a total of 632,431.31 metric tons of the grains.
Records showed that there were 29 farmers’ cooperatives in the top 50 companies which imported rice in 2019. This year, 18 out of the top 50 rice importers are farmer coops.
“The most pressing question now is, are these farmers’ cooperatives/associations actually capable by themselves to import such large number of rice into the country, or is there a dummy arrangement behind the scenes?” Villar asked.
Tama si Senator Villar. Dapat alamin ng gobyerno kung talagang may kapasidad ang mga kooperatibang ito na umangkat ng bigas.