Saturday, April 5, 2008

Philippines: Arroyo unveils Philippine farm plan..

This is from AFP. I wonder what Arroyo will do with unscrupulous politicians who use rice to buy votes or who set up fertilizer funds and then gives some of the money to urban supporters!
Somehow no one ever seems to think of curbing population growth as a solution to any of the problems in the Philippines. I have never seen any ads for condoms in the Philippines (or for Viagra or Cialis for that matter). The Church disapproves. People are necessary so that their souls can be saved and their labour exported to send remittances back home.

As rice soars, Arroyo unveils Philippine farm plan
23 hours ago

MANILA (AFP) — President Gloria Arroyo on Friday announced major investments to overhaul the Philippine agriculture sector, as the country grapples with soaring rice prices that have raised fears of social unrest.

A day after ordering the army to help deliver rice supplies in the capital Manila, Arroyo held a "food summit" with top officials to work out a plan for reviving a sector that has long been inefficient and riddled with graft.

The Philippines relies on imports for rice, the staple food of its 90 million people. Many rice farmers work small plots, have no money to invest and often have large families that leave them little rice to sell on the market.

"We must work harder to grow what we need," Arroyo said, announcing hundreds of millions of dollars in projects for everything from high-yield seeds to irrigation to new roads and ports to transport farm produce.

She said some of the projects would be funded by foreign governments in the form of development aid to the Philippines, which has been one of the countries hardest hit by the sharp rice increases. She did not provide a total cost.

Rice is not the only key commodity whose price is going sharply up. The National Statistics Office said earlier Friday that rising food prices helped push the March inflation rate to a 20-month high of 6.4 percent.

It cited "upward movements in the prices of the heavily weighted food items such as rice, flour and flour products, pork, cooking oil, selected spices and seasonings, milk and milk products."

But as part of almost every Filipino meal, rice plays a central role in the economy -- and the stark price hikes have made life tougher for the country's millions of poor while wreaking havoc on the market.

Arroyo said the government would keep cracking down on unscrupulous private traders amid allegations of hoarding as well as the illegal sale of government-subsidised rice at nearly double the recommended price.

She said it was essential to eradicate corruption in the agriculture sector, and that "friend and foe alike are (being) brought to account for their actions."

There have been no major incidents of unrest in the Philippines over the rice situation, and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap stressed earlier that the country had enough supplies for now.

The government has announced plans to import 1.5 million tonnes of the staple cereal this year, of which 700,000 tonnes are expected to arrive in July.

Yap said the government had the capacity to import "up to 2.7 million tonnes" this year, but did not say if that figure will be reached.

"With imports on the way and a bumper summer crop ... the country will have more than an adequate supply of rice for the rest of the year," he said.

Yap said agricultural production had steadily been rising since 2001, with rice production hitting a record high of 16.24 million tonnes last year, but that population growth was still outstripping it.

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