Monday, March 24, 2008

Less Rice Anyone?

Rice as we all know is the staple food of the Filipino. The Filipinos would rather have less viand than less rice. In a country where agricultural programs are misdirected, importation is the only option. The National Food Authority (NFA) is the agency tasked with ensuring that supplies is always enough to meet the demands of the country. Due to the increasing demand for rice and the shift to developing crops for bio-fuels, the price of rice continue to shoot up globally. With our dependence on imported rice, the usually affordable food could now go beyond the reach of ordinary Filipinos.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was able to develop a hybrid rice that would allow several harvests a year. The problem is that it requires a different and more expensive fertilizer. With corruption well entrenched in this administration, even subsidies intended for farmers are diverted. Our farmers are at a disadvantage as foreign governments subsidize their agricultural sector quite extensively. The NFA set up centers of procurement which should have done away with unscrupulous businessmen who prey on the hapless farmers. But more often than not, funds are low that these centers cannot buy the farmers' produce. Farmers are asked to come back when funds are available. The farmers in their desire to convert their crops to cash, only have this abusive middlemen to turn to.

The administration for its part has asked the people to "lessen" our intake of rice. Even going as far as asking fast food chains to halve their serving of rice. Do they even know how small the serving Jolliebee or McDonalds serve? I doubt it. Millions of Filipinos survive on rice and fish sauce or salt everyday, I wonder what other options do these people have? Millions of children are also malnourished. Average price of commercial rice is now pegged at P34/kilo. One need not be a rocket scientist to reach a conclusion that these factors leads to unproductive individuals. With oil and electricity also on the rise, poverty will definitely increase.

It is so easy for our officials to call for such actions since they do not have to experience the kind of harsh lives our people face everyday. I find it so irresponsible on their part to even contemplate on the only food most Filipinos can afford. What the government should do is to lead by example. Our leaders live a life most people can only dream of. They live in mansions and drive expensive cars. Their children are permanent fixtures in expensive clubs and even travel abroad whenever they wish to. Such callous display of wealth is deplorable in this country.

Insensitive, pure stupidity or lack of empathy, these so-called leaders should try the life we have. Let us see if they would even last a minute in the sorry state the poorest of the poor live in. A country cannot and will never progress if we have leaders like these. The other reason why we are facing a rice crisis is because of unchecked(?) smuggling and the existence of cartels which makes life even harder. Care to guess who is involved in such activities?

So who among you want less rice? They should be the ones sacrificing for us, not the other way around. Public officials are suppose to serve the people. If Gloria wants a revolution, the best way is to deprive the masses of something to fill their empty, aching stomachs with. Rice, glorious rice. If Gloria and her gang can't address this, they all end up being milled and stuffed in sacks.