Coco farmers protest low copra prices
Farmers from southern Luzon have set up a weeklong camp in Quezon City to protest the new rice law and lower prices of copra that peasant groups said could turn the Philippines into a “hungry and food-insecure” agricultural country.
Represented by peasant groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kampuhang Magsasaka Laban sa Kahirapan, Kagutuman at Pasismo (Kasama-TK) and Bantay Bigas, farmers from Quezon, Laguna and Batangas provinces said they would camp outside the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) until Friday to oppose the Rice Import Liberalization Law, or Republic Act No. 11203.
The groups said RA 11203, which took effect on Wednesday, stripped the National Food Authority (NFA) of its regulatory functions over the grains industry, including the granting of licenses to rice traders, inspecting warehouses, and seizing hoarded and smuggled rice.
Eddie Billiones of Kasama-TK said the unrestricted importation and liberalization of the rice industry would lead to hunger especially among local farmers.
The groups urged the government to strive for rice sufficiency and food security, instead of depending on rice imports.
During a protest dialogue at the PCA on Tuesday, coconut farmers also asked the coconut agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the NFA for an immediate food aid of three sacks of rice for each coco farming family affected by the steadily declining price of copra and whole coconut in southern Luzon provinces.
The groups also demanded the standardization of copra prices at P50 per kilo and coconuts at P12 each, and asked that the wages of farm workers be raised to P300 a day for every 1,000 coconuts harvested.
“Copra prices have declined by 66 percent from P38 per kilo in 2017 to the latest February 2019 price of P12 per kilo. This amount is not even enough to buy half a kilo of rice,” said Agaton Bautista of Bakasan at Lakas ng mga Magniniyog sa Batangas.
“Coco farmers earn even less because of long-standing antifarmer practices of resicada, resiko or moisture content,” Bautista added.
PCA OIC-Administrator Glen Santos assured the farmers during the dialogue that the agency would review the resicada system.