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Importation ain’t the answer! Kiko urges gov’t to increase support for farmers

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Senator Kiko Pangilinan on Friday said that increasing farmers’ income is the “more effective way” to address high prices of basic goods, like rice.

He was reacting to the rice tariffication bill in Congress which seeks to remove the prescribed import volume on rice and open the market to private traders.

Initially, lowering the tariff can bring in cheap agricultural products in the country, which could stave off the soaring prices of goods, he said.

However, he pointed out, the long-term solution is adequate supply and rice self-sufficiency.

Importing rice and imposing lower tariff are short-term solutions to high prices, said Pangilinan, a farmer himself.

“Rice is also a kind of driver of inflation. When rice prices increase, the prices of other food items also tend to increase,” Pangilinan said.

He stressed that when the rice supply “is mismanaged, rice prices rise, becoming inflationary, and pulling up the prices of all other agriculture products and other basic commodities.”

Pangilinan, former presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, has urged the government to focus on farmers’ incomes to address poverty and hunger.

“Pag tumataas ang presyo ng bigas, ang resulta nyan ay gutom. Dahil lalo na sa ating mga kababayang mahihirap, 70% ng kanilang gastusin ay pagkain,” he said.

“Pero doon sa pagkain na 70%, 30% ay sa bigas. So pagka tumaas ang presyo ng bigas, hindi na kakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw ang mga kababayan nating mahihirap,” he said.

Pangilinan added, “Strategically, lowering the tariffs can bring in cheap agricultural products to address inflation.”

“But in the long run, what you really need to address is greater supply brought about by greater farm productivity,” he said.

“You have to increase your productivity. And increasing productivity is really focusing on farmers’ incomes,” Pangilinan said.

He noted that the high prices of goods is a result of many factors, including the TRAIN (Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion) law and limited supply. “Hindi talaga tayo (rice) sufficient at this time.”