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Protect our farmers

The people in Metro Manila may not be aware of the crisis surrounding our rice and corn farmers who are already in tears for being exploited by abusive and greedy traders.

These businessmen have connived to lower the prices of palay and corn to a level where farmers will be at the losing end and suffer massive losses.

Corn prices earlier sold at P17 per kilo can now be purchased at P10. Even the price of palay previously at R20 is now sold at P13.

These prices have been lowered not because there is an oversupply, since the country continues to import rice to address the annual shortage.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol cited the National Food Authority’s (NFA) recent importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice.

Piñol pointed out that the prices of rice in the market are at their highest at R45 for good quality rice to R65 for special rice. There should have been an equivalent reduction in the prices of rice being sold in the market if there was indeed an oversupply.

He believes that the rice and corn cartel are again exploiting the farmers since the NFA was unable to stabilize the price. However, the secretary is powerless to order the NFA to address this problem since it is not under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The DA chief asked Solicitor General Jose Calida to study the possibility of filing charges of economic sabotage against traders who are exploiting our rice and corn farmers.

He understands the plight of our farmers who still have to recover from the losses to their livelihood incurred during the El Niño period, and are now being threatened by La Niña.

Piñol has directed all regional directors under his office to invite rice and corn traders who are buying at very low prices to a dialogue in their offices. He is appealing to them to take pity and be fair to the poor farmers, and buy grains at a reasonable price.

Regional directors have been instructed to field their men to monitor these grains traders, document their transactions, take pictures if possible and get affidavits from farmers who fell victim to these exploitations.

Firing Line agrees with the Agriculture secretary that manipulating the prices of rice and corn is a criminal act, definitely an injustice to the farmers. And the greedy traders should pay for it.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)

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