Bantay Bigas agrees with Sec. Proceso Alcala’s statement (PDI June 30) that a large percentage of the country’s harvest of palay is wasted as it goes to the milling process as consumable rice due to inadequate and low-technology post-harvest drying and milling facilities. According to Herculano “Joji” Co of the Philippines Confederation of Grains Millers and Retailers, most of the rice milling facilities in the Philippines does not have the capacity to mill rice in huge volumes. Rice milling capacity in the country can only mill out 10 tons (10,000 kilos or rice) per hour, while smaller capacities can only mill between 3 to 7 tons per hour. The country’s average capacity of 5 tons to 10 tons per hour is very backward compared to the rice milling technology in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Thailand’s rice milling capacity is 100 metric tons per hour. Our national average in rice milling is 60% recovery (for every 100 kilos of palay, on 60 kilos are milled out as consumable rice) compared to 66% to 70% recovery using modern technology in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. From our current rate of recovery, seven percent is even wasted. Add to this our inadequate post-harvest facilities. We do not have mechanical driers. Most of our farmers dry palay in streets and sidewalks. In the past our Vietnamese suppliers were delighted at supplying us with rice milling equipment of 10 tons / hour capacity but as the years passed, Vietnamese suppliers laugh at us because not even their farmers use 10 tons/hour rice milling technology. It is already obsolete in Vietnam.
However, what is not mentioned by Sec. Alcala is the country’s shrinking rice lands because of continuing land use conversion to other uses such as commercial and residential areas by private business in the real estate sector.
Bantay Bigas is likewise averse to government’s thrust of passing on to private sector the provision of post-harvest facilities needed by the farmers including the necessary support services for farmers to improve their livelihoods. These are government’s responsibilities to ensure the farmers are not exploited by scrupulous and profit-oriented private businesses. As it is, the Philippines’ rice industry is under the control of private traders and landowners who have monopoly control over rice farms, rice seeds and inputs, credit and capital including post-harvest facilities as rice mills and warehouses. They control prices of the country’s basic staple from the farm to the market while the rice farmers remain indebted and poor.
Hunger and poverty remain widespread among the country’s primary food producers. They cannot even afford to buy what they have produced. This is because government has privatized the country’s rice industry early on until today and as such, it is under private control and monopoly.
Thailand, Vietnam, including the US and EU all maintained government support and subsidy for their farmers and agriculture. The Philippines can never attain rice self-sufficiency unless the Philippine government does it part well – support the country’s primary food producers through capital and inputs subsidies, develop the rice industry, implement genuine agrarian reform program. Otherwise, the Philippines will remain the number one importer of rice in the world.#eof#
(Bantay Bigas letter to the PDI editor, July 3, 2011)