Gov’t subsidies don’t benefit country’s farmers

The reactions to the reports on the rice shortage are exaggerated. While the “haves” are worried that they might no longer be able to buy rice, the “have-nots” have long been dying from hunger and starvation, unable to buy rice or any food to eat. My wife’s parents and siblings, who spent all their lives growing rice, had to eat rice porridge, boiled green leafy vegetables and root crops. They were producing rice not for their own consumption but for others.

So, who’s afraid of the rice shortage? The government’s immediate intervention has been to subsidize the farmers—by way of allocating funds through the local government units—to help them increase their farm produce. But it did not elaborate how the subsidy will reach the farmers.

Obviously the government is not aware that the farmers, like my parents-in-law, have not been getting subsidies from the government for a quite a time. And only a few of the rice farmers till their own land; most don’t own the land they till and have to share their produce with the landowners or their financiers. For example, my parents-in-laws grosses only P4,000 to P5,000 every harvest season, which comes every three months.

So, how could a family of eight like them survive these days with such a meager income? A few years back, they could at least harvest thrice in one year; but because of the worsening climate condition, these days they can only harvest twice a year.

Farmers like my parents-in-law are generally deep in debt. They borrow money to buy fertilizers, to be paid come harvest time. They have not been getting any assistance, even for fertilizers. I doubt if the any subsidy would benefit the farmers in need.

Unless there is a clear mechanism for delivering subsidies to farmers, such government assistance will have no meaning to them. And these are the farmers who struggle to survive daily. It is unfortunate that the people they have been feeding all their lives pay little attention to their needs and concerns.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:46:00 04/08/2008

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Filed under Letter to the editor, Public opinion

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