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Davao City, Philippines

Piñol lashes out at farmers’ group

January 25, 2020 - Saturday 6:01 PM by Ruth Palo

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DAVAO CITY -- Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Secretary Emmanuel Piñol lashed out at a farmers’ association for calling government’s program to export organic rice “futile” and “an outright insulting to the Filipino people amidst rice liberalization.”

Piñol told the Mirror that the program supported by MinDA is a way to protect farmers from the adverse effect of Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

“The organic rice, whether locally sold or exported, earns more money for the farmers,” he said.

Piñol said the program is MinDA’s way of convincing farmers to continue planting rice.

The Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) in Davao de Oro had earlier said the proposal of MinDA through its Mindanao Organic Rice Council to export prime organic rice while the country “continues to import weevil-infested rice bought by rice liberalization law is futile and insult to the farmers.”

CFA chair Noli Villanueva said this program of the current administration “exposes its lack of comprehensive plan for food security.”

“They only further the dominant export-oriented and import-dependent agriculture system. For example, our place in Compostela that used to be a rice granary was subjected to massive conversions of banana plantations and even mining,” Villanueva said in a statement on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, MinDA said the trial shipment of 500 bags of rice is ongoing and targeted the United States of America as its market.

The proposal of rice importation was presented last year by Piñol and initially targets 5,000 metric tons of rice to be imported from Papua New Guinea.

According to Piñol, there are Filipino-Americans from Davao who are willing to organize a network among Filipino families in which each of them will have an allocation of rice every month.

“This is the project that MinDA really did not initiate. We just supported it because this has been going on,” Piñol said.

CFA said the solution to the worsening state of the country’s staple food is through a moratorium on land conversion, distribution of land to farmers, and appropriate support for production and marketing.

CFA called on government to give attention to farmers and focus more on achieving food security through free land distribution and push for programs that improve productivity.

“We also call on the government to end agriculture liberalization like in our rice industry as our farmers lost around P100 billion last year,” it added.

Piñol, however, challenged the group, saying it should buy the farmers’  produce at premium price if it does not want farmers to export their organic black, brown, and red rice.