The most wonderful thing about our government agencies is that they are full of talking heads. Take for instance the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture, choice ranges from the national office in metro Manila, or in Bicol or in the provinces. Information, misinformation, half-truths and the blatant attempt to deviate attention out of the prevailing true state of the rice supply, its availability and the predicament of farmers, also become part of the job.
Camsur NFA provincial manager Edna de Guzman said that although eight rice producing municipalities were heavily affected by the floods, “no shortage of rice is being anticipated” with 700,000 bags of rice still in their warehouses. A statement more to settle their own discomfort but not to assure rice supply will stay in a surplus level for a long time.
Rice harvest was greatly diminished in the six Bicol provinces with the final blow brought about by recent typhoon Juaning on July. Loss was estimated at 29,023.47 metric tons of rice from cultivated 30,915.07 hectares. The DA regional office in Pili confirmed the value of the blown by the wind rice yield to P85.58 million.
DA regional executive director Jose Dayao said that despite those disasters, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported that the region posted a 17.3 percent palay production growth rate in the first semester of this year.
An estimated 23,170 farmers many of whom are in CamSur and Albay lost their crops to the typhoon. Many of these farmers will also have a hard time recovering from the loss because financing was sourced from institutions or individuals who will not forego with the scheduled payment of loans despite their present predicament. Farmers deal with institutions which are ruthless, which are more into recovery of their capital and the accompanying interest earned, no matter what.
The silver lining, if the farmers can call it, was the announcement that the NFA has 4,000 sacks of certified seeds ready for distribution to these same hapless Bicol farmers. But these seeds will not come free of charge.
Also, rice farmers will have to start all over again while on the lookout for a source of capital infusion to finance the harrowing of fields, the germinating and planting of rice seedlings, the minnowing, the fertilization, etc. A cyle that more than many times compound the poor farmers’ predicament and forever till the land they are pegged unto without any hope for alleviation from poverty and hunger.
There might be enough rice supply to carry us (consumers) over to the next harvest season. But what about the farmers? Meantime that the harvest season has come and gone without any rice harvest, the farmers have to fend off the hunger of their families from loan sharks as a long list of daily needs are tabbed on the nearby sari-sari store. Or sometimes, they have to eat one meal a day, if at all.
Don’t lie now, very soon, the talk about urgent rice importation program may soon become a significant agenda, as always.