GOVT URGED TO DISCONTINUE BANKRUPT LAWS LIKE AFMA:Policies only worsened RP’s dependence on rice imports

Independent think-tank IBON Foundation today urged the Arroyo administration to discontinue policies like the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), which has only contributed to the country’s current rice crisis.

Rice imports have consistently increased since the AFMA was signed into law in 1997. From 722,000 metric tons in 1997, rice imports as of 2006 have already reached 1.7 million metric tons. For 2008 the country is estimated to import some 2 million metric tons of rice.

AFMA, which was signed in 1997, promised to develop and modernize the agriculture sector through investments and importation of machinery. It allows the private sector to participate in rice importaion, and targets to separate and partly privatize the regulatory and trading functions of the NFA.

The AFMA complements the government’s medium-term plan in agriculture, which aims to reduce the production of rice and corn from 5 million MT to 3.1 million MT and invite foreign businesses to invest in the country’s key production areas.

Neither the medium-term plan nor the AFMA can address the basi c p roblems of the country’s farmers, such as lack of support services and subsidies. Instead, it encourages more foreign investment in export-oriented agricultural production through the Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZ).

The country can never achieve food security and self-sufficiency under liberalization policies like AFMA because it promotes entry of foreign investments in the local agriculture instead of supporting the sector and subsidizing Filipino farmers. What is needed is for the government to address age-old problems through government support for agriculture and reversing trade liberalization, while implementing genuine agrarian reform.

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