Imee Marcos Proposes Centralized System to Reduce Rice Prices

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Alternative Solutions to Reduce Rice Prices

Senator Imee Marcos recently proposed an alternative method to reduce rice prices by advocating for the removal of intermediaries in favor of a centralized procurement and distribution system for the staple. During the House of Representatives’ review of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), demands to broaden the National Food Authority’s (NFA) responsibilities were raised. Marcos pushed for the elimination of middlemen and the resurrection of the long-forgotten NFA-FTI-Kadiwa (National Food Authority-Food Terminal, Inc.-Kadiwa) system.

The Historical Context of the Kadiwa System

Senator Marcos referred to the 1970s National Food Security Program, which included the NFA’s direct procurement of local farm products, their centralized gathering and distribution by Food Terminal Inc., and their sale at reduced prices in Kadiwa retail outlets. In the 1970s, the world experienced an oil crisis, leading to skyrocketing commodity prices that were unattainable for the average person. The cost of moving goods from farms to markets tripled, resulting in decreased food supplies and scarcity.

Amid this crisis, the Kadiwa system emerged as a ray of hope and a much-needed support for those struggling to survive. The government introduced a system to sell seven essential commodities at government-controlled rates. This initiative aimed to ensure that essential goods remained affordable and accessible to the public.

The Role of the Kadiwa Center

On April 14, 1980, the inaugural Kadiwa center was established at the FTI complex. The term “Kadiwa” embodied unity and a sense of belonging in the local language. The center offered essential commodities at reasonable prices, made feasible by bulk purchasing at discounted rates. At the time, the Kadiwa center acted as a conduit between producers and consumers, with only the FTI and NFA as intermediaries. This streamlined process ensured that only handling and transport expenses were added, thus maintaining low prices.

Senator Marcos argued that with the resurrection of the Kadiwa system, the government’s price monitors would no longer need to engage in a cat-and-mouse game with wet market retailers, guaranteeing the lowest rice prices.

Addressing Concerns and Amending the Rice Tariffication Law

Rice farmers affected by drought due to El Niño have raised concerns about leaner local harvests, a tighter NFA rice buffer stock, and higher Filipino food staple retail prices. As the lower house sought to amend the RTL, Senator Marcos credited the law for lowering rice prices during its first year of implementation. However, she acknowledged that rampant rice importation later pulled down farmgate prices of palay, forcing many rice farmers to abandon their livelihoods.

In response to these challenges, Senator Marcos proposed amendments to Republic Act (RA) 8178, also known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act, in Senate Bill (SB) 642. SB 642 emphasizes the need for financial assistance to farmers displaced by wholesale importation. Additionally, the bill grants the president the power to halt importation when an excessive supply of imported or local rice causes a price crash, ensuring supply and price stabilization.

Senator Marcos emphasized the importance of considering the interests of farmers when consumers clamor for lower prices. While acknowledging the positive impact of the RTL, she believes that introducing safeguards into the law can make it more responsive to the current situation without completely overhauling it.

By revisiting the Kadiwa system and proposing amendments to existing legislation, Senator Imee Marcos aims to address the challenges faced by rice farmers and ensure that rice prices remain affordable for Filipino consumers.

Source: The Manila Times

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