Rice issue

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Thursday, January 23, 2014


THERE will never be an end to the problem about rice--its acquisition, production, availability, and more importantly, its supply to a rice consuming population. Thus, the concerned public should not be surprised if now and then something about the cereal emerges unexpectedly, like the Senate probe about rice smuggling among some businessmen operating in Manila.

Well, being an important and most sellable commodity, rice, which is the basic food of majority of our people in Luzon and in many parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, should certainly be a good commodity to invest in.

It is what profit-motivated entrepreneurs would consider as a highly marketable product. It is a most sellable cereal that people buy without prodding from anyone but for the hunger in the belly.

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Consequently, it should not also surprise us, more so our police, if anyone should try to smuggle much needed supply of rice into the country. Where a commodity is highly in demand and its supply is limited, profit-hungry businessmen will always find a way to make some quick cash.

The recent report of a smuggling effort getting caught can be considered a normal operation, albeit illegal, in our country. The rice market here has always been a profitable one.

There was a time when I was invited by then Cabinet secretary of agriculture Juan de G. Rodriguez to go with him to Cotabato to check the reported locust infestation in the Tacurong area. (I was an associate editor then of the Sunday Times Magazine of the Manila Times.)

The secretary used a C-47 of the Philippine Air Force because he was to make an overnight stopover at the Lahug airport in Cebu City. It was also an opportunity to visit the family.

But there was a night when we stayed overnight in a town near Tacurong to observe how the farmers were containing the infestation themselves, with the technical support of the agriculture personnel.

And it was really difficult to contain even with chemicals as the blanket of locust hoppers was so thick. By the way, since Central Mindanao was populated mostly by Cebuano-speaking Visayans, I was able to move around with the people and talk with them.

A farmer noted that the night we were there was a peaceful one. Otherwise, there would have a so much rifle-firing, not to shoot the farmers and agriculture technicians but to scare them away and prevent the spraying of pesticide on the locusts.

It seems that some profit-motivated men would like to just catch the hoppers and sell them by the sack in Davao City for export to Manila where they were sold by the ganta like shrimps.

I found out that shrewd businessmen in the area shipped clean rice and corn grit to Cebu, and dried sacks of locust hoppers to Manila. These were then sold in Metro markets by the ganta.

When it comes to the matter of rice supply, Chinese business proprietors take center stage, to the extent, it is said, that they determine how much the cereal should be priced for the day.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 24, 2014.

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