PRESS RELEASE

3 May 2011, Manila: A report in the Philippines has raised chills of another rice crisis, barely three years after the 2008 shortage that saw poor Filipinos lining up for food rations. The current controversy in the Philippines, with the government denying any looming rice crisis despite a report citing the shrinking supply of rice for its 90 million population points to what is wrong with its food and farming systems.

The irony is that Filipino farmers have the will and skill to grow enough rice to feed themselves and the nation: provided it is their rice, their seeds and their agriculture that is given adequate support. So despite the Philippines' National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) report, it is the intelligence of the country’s own farmers that needs to be heeded. There can be no 'national security' without /food /security.

“There is no excuse for there to be a rice crisis in the Philippines when we have the expertise to produce enough rice for ourselves and to raise farmers’ incomes,” says Dr. Charito P. Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development). "MASIPAG organic farms can produce an average of 6.7 tonnes of rice per hectare in North Cotabato and more than 7 tons per hectare in Laguna. In Bago, Negros Occidental, an organic farm averages 7 tons of rice per hectare compared with 6.3 tons per hectare for conventional rice farms. Furthermore, organic agriculture can reduce production costs for 75 percent of poor Filipino farmers.”

Government imports, corporate exports and commodity trade have become the dominant jargon of the food and farming sector. But this needs to change. To achieve true food security, there is no way out but to get out of the corporate model of agriculture, export-led agribusiness and import-dependent food systems. This is not the story of the Philippines alone. While Asian farmers produce over 90% of the world's rice, Asian countries combined account for 40% of global rice imports. Asia has large rural populations living with hunger with prices keeping food out of their reach while governments and traders look to make money from the rice trade.

Meanwhile, traditional exporters are 'diversifying' away from rice. The Thai Government is reportedly considering moving from 'more quantity' to 'superior quality' in its rice strategy to sell less but more expensive rice to the world. While other Asian economies like Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam see each other as 'export rivals'. All this on a planet that faces the reality of lesser food production due to reasons that range from natural disasters to the changing climate and 'development' policies that undermine peoples’ food and farm systems. It is /local production and local consumption/ that ensues community food security. Thus relationships amongst nations have to be re-written in the language of food cooperation.

The situation is also reflective of how totally irrelevant the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, based in the Philippines) has become. If the country hosting such a premier international agricultural research centre for over 50 years is reduced to becoming the top rice-importing nation, then its continuance ought to be called into question.

Rice growing has to come back to being what it was meant to be – nourishing human beings, nurturing the earth and celebrating Asia's (agri)cultures. As farmer leaders and groups in the Philippines itself have constantly been cautioning, rice production is not simply an 'economic' issue.

Rice crises will continue to haunt the homes of millions of poor Asians as long as there is no transformation away from corporate-based ‘Green Revolution’ rice farming.

Issued by:

Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG/Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development)
Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT/ Wellspring of Science and Technology)
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP)

For more information, contact:

Dr. Charito Medina
Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG/Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development)
E-mail: info at masipag.org
Home Page: www.masipag.org

or

Clare Westwood
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP)
E-mail: clare.westwood at panap.net, panap at panap.net 
Home Page: www.panap.net

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