Women call out Marcos Jr. admin’s inadequate response to escalating food crisis

The Center for Women’s Resources laments the inadequate response of the Marcos Jr. administration to the ongoing food crisis in the Philippines. Despite being at the helm of the Department of Agriculture, effective solutions to combat the escalating food prices, especially regarding rice, have remained elusive. Instead of implementing concrete measures to strengthen local food production and ensure food security, the government has resorted to short-term, stopgap solutions to address the crisis.

Under Executive Order No. 39, issued by Pres. Marcos Jr., price caps were enforced on regular and well-milled rice starting September 5. The stipulated price limit for regular milled rice is set at PhP41.00 per kilogram, while the ceiling for well-milled rice is PhP45.00 per kilogram.

During the first week of July 2023, the average retail price of a kilogram of well-milled rice stood at PhP45.56 nationwide. In comparison, during the same period last year, the average retail price was PhP43.32. For regular milled rice, over the course of a year, the price has surged from PhP38.99 in 2022 to PhP41.23 in July 2023. Notably, in certain regions like Region VII (Central Visayas), the average retail price can climb even higher, reaching PhP48.25.

The high rice prices disproportionately affect low-income households, as they allocate a more significant portion of their income toward food, especially cereal products like rice. According to the Household Food Consumption Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Institute of DOST, low-income households allocate 41.6% of their food expenses to energy-providing foods such as rice and cereals, compared to 28.8% among high-income households.

While the government attempts to stabilize rice prices and make them more accessible to consumers, it is crucial to address the underlying issues plaguing the agricultural sector. These issues include the adverse effects of agricultural liberalization, the lack of robust support for local food producers, and the persistent problem of landlessness.

Passing burden on small retailers

The imposition of price caps on rice does little to address the root causes of the soaring food prices. Price caps may provide temporary relief for consumers by limiting the price they have to pay for rice, but they fail to tackle the issues of supply and demand imbalance, production inefficiencies, and market speculation. 

Another concern is the impact of this policy on small retailers and how it may further burden them without addressing the main issues of supply and demand. Price caps may force small retailers to sell rice at lower prices, potentially leading to reduced profit margins and financial strain. This could result in the closure of small businesses, further concentrating market power in the hands of larger retailers, big importers, and the rice cartel. 

More false solutions

Meanwhile, Marcos Jr. announced his plans to import more agricultural produce this year to address the surge in prices of basic commodities. The government has long pursued a path of agricultural liberalization, which prioritizes rice imports over developing local rice production. This overreliance on imports, reinforced by the enactment of the Rice Liberalization Law in 2019, renders the country vulnerable to fluctuations in global rice prices and undermines the livelihoods of Filipino rice farmers struggling to compete with cheaper, imported rice.

On the other hand, the persistent neglect and lack of support for local food producers, particularly rice farmers, exacerbate the problem. The national budget, for instance, reflects the government’s disregard for the agriculture sector. The proposed budget for the Department of Agriculture for 2024 amounts to PhP 197.84 billion, a 6 percent increase from the 2023 budget allocation of PhP186.54 billion. 

Notably, the biggest share of the budget went to the Office of the Secretary, of which, one-third was allocated for infrastructure development – purportedly to the repair and construction of farm-to-market roads. However, this does not necessarily address the needs of small farmers such as direct subsidies, irrigation, and access to market and resources. 

Another pressing concern is the long-standing issue of landlessness among Filipino farmers. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and inequality in rural areas, as farmers struggle to make a sustainable income and provide for their families. Seven out of ten farming families still do not own or control the land that they are tilling. Without secure land tenure, farmers are often left vulnerable to exploitation from landlords and agrocorporations. Addressing the issue of landlessness is crucial in ensuring the socio-economic development of Filipino farmers, as well as achieving food security and sustainable development in the country.

The Center for Women’s Resources urges all Filipino people to call for comprehensive and sustainable solutions that prioritize strengthening local food production, supporting small farmers, and addressing the problem of landlessness. #

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap