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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Small Farmers Won't Be Planting Rice Soon









PHOTOS:
1) A new rice variety developed by IRRI; 2)Vietnam rice being unloaded from a cargo ship; 3)NFA Rice in a warehouse - what shortage?; 4)An IRRI Techie inspects her specimens; 5)An MF tractor my company sold to IRRI; 6)A farmer carrying seedlings on the way to the farm. (Photos courtesy of IRRI's Flickr site)

*****************


I wrote this originally as a comment to Ellen's blog post entitled "Looming Fertilizer Shortage".

I was prompted by what I saw in the news last night. It was about a farmer who belongs to a group that plans to skip the next palay (rice) planting season. Though the focus of the news was only about the high cost of irrigation, I'm sure it's not the only reason they are doing so.

Seeds, the high end variety that is, I am told have been suspiciously missing since there are tons of Gloria’s “hybrid” variety rotting away in some NFA warehouse government is pushing Central Luzon farmers into buying. The natural course is that the regular seeds will demand higher prices OR they buy the cheaper but riskier hybrid which, when attacked by virus, kills wide tracts of palay-planted farms in a matter of days.

Next, irrigation. Farmers have been complaining about the cost of electricity used to pump water into their fields. At P9,000 per hectare, this amount reflects very high energy cost per hectare compared to our neighboring countries. Fuel price increases is one of the culprits here. Another is the incompetence of Napocor in managing its assets that is pushing maintenance costs sky-high thus, more expensive power.

We go now to fertilizers. Sulfur and pyrite (fool’s gold) are abundant but unmined. Sulfur mining in particular has been somewhat restrained after 9/11 since large volumes of sulfuric acid may be considered WMD. We have huge stocks of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium. Especially phosphate, since we have the whole phosphate rock-island Republic of Nauru supplying us with the raw materials should our own resources get depleted. Hey, we have even convinced them to relocate in that building at the corner of Buendia and Makati Ave. should the 5,000-man island-nation sink down the Pacific due to over-quarrying. We have Joe Concepcion, as Cory’s Trade Secretary, to thank for (for once) for securing our phosphate supply for at least half a century. I don’t understand why we have a shortage in urea, though. Putting plastic containers in Bayani Fernando’s disgusting pink urinals all over the Metro would be enough to gather urea raw materials. I think.

Post-harvest. The same effects that the high cost of energy have on the service charge of paddy hullers, dryers, separators and polishers. I won’t be surprised farmers would go back to the primitive bilad-bayo-tahip method just to make a modest return. We can also include here the cost of renting hand-tractors or even just the cost of maintaining one, if they own it. Or cheaper still, get a carabao!

Ditto for transporting the crops.

What this all sums up to is a gi-mongous cost increase in rice production amidst a steady NFA buying price of P14.00.

The farmers won’t survive in this situation. I’ve just been to Subic the last weekend and judging by what I saw all throughout Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga and Bulacan, the farmers are in no hurry to prepare the soil for the May planting season. They’d probably wait for the rains before plowing and harrowing to save on tractor rental and irrigation cost.

Wow! We’ve just been teleported back to the 19th century!




(8~D)

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14 Comments:

At 4:58 PM, April 23, 2008, Blogger stuart-santiago said...

what a gi-mongous problem, 'no? how do we right it so that the farmer gets paid a good price AND the poor consumers get to buy it cheap. how to get rice out of the subsidy trap. parang it'll take no less than an overhaul of our economic system, di ba. policies that will really create jobs, provide livelihood for the unemployed masses, so that they can afford to buy rice without a discount. how sad talaga that gma, who has all the power, does not have the heart and the vision to lift us out of this mess.

 
At 4:45 PM, April 26, 2008, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Honestly, Angela, I can't think of any surefire solutions, either.

But as I've been doing the computations, the price surges have been triggered by the manipulative buying prices of traders, millers and those who are both traders and millers.

From P500/50Kg sack of palay, which was the price late last year, they have been buying at around P800, to the delight of the farmers. The farmers make a whopping 45-65% income! I challenge any bigshot fund manager net the same returns on any equities market investment in less than a semester.

(But these guys are not the same farmers I mentioned in the blog post. Those ones usually farm a mere hectare or even less.)

As soon as the millers/traders haul the harvest from the farms, it's a different story altogether. Or so we're told.

 
At 5:02 PM, April 26, 2008, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

What is mind-boggling is why would the millers/traders buy at P17 when the effect of the additional P3 doubled the farmers' profits while they claim their margins remained the same or even dwindled?

Are they deliberately jumpstarting the surge so they can sell their stocks later when price add-ups have zoomed way beyond the P3 hike in farmgate prices?

 
At 10:29 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

Hi Tongue,

I've decided that I'm going to go into rice planting even if only for self-sufficiency purpose (not for me personally but for family and relatives out there.) Got a bit of land in Pinas (just a few hectares) and have asked my Mom to find out if Mang Pepe and his son want to do it, i.e., to plant rice who heartily agreed - Mom actually is looking forward to overseeing the project -- gives her something to do too.

Will be doing the same thing on our newly purchased farmland in France, well, not necessarily plant rice but do something worthwhile but don't know what yet, maybe plant potatoes or kamotes or corn (mind you, didn't mean to go into farming at all when we got the old farmhouse, just happened to fall in love with the old stone house which had some significant fields attached to it, a few hectares) but definitely not colza for bio fuel -- darn nuissance this bio-fuel craze in Europe that's overtaking lots of farmlands.

Did you know that farmlands in the UK are in demand now? Prices of farmland have almost doubled in the UK in a few months. There are speculations that investment in farmland properties will be the next thing.

 
At 10:32 AM, May 02, 2008, Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

Re "Get a carabao..."
Well, good news, I already have a carabao in Pinas! Hah! (But he's already old and is truly has become a family pet... hehe!)

 
At 12:28 PM, May 04, 2008, Blogger Bambit said...

come to think of it, that's when we were the top rice producer and exporter in asia, back when there were still carabaos and the bayohan. carabaos can be raised and the bayohan can be carved out by the farmers own hands. maybe it is time to go back to the 19th century, when some farmers had control of their crops, and the ones who didn't at least made a decent living out of their produce.

 
At 6:51 PM, May 04, 2008, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Hillblogger,
If I had the means, I would go all out with farming or fishing. A minimum of 20 hectares at least for planting rice or ten hectares for prawn or fish. Ten hectares of rice nets a Million Pesos a year (at 60% net profits). Double that for export-grade prawns and fish, though the cost of inputs are doubly more expensive too.

I've also seen feasibility studies on cut-flowers though its preferred location should be somewhere in the uplands of Cavite or Batangas (Silang or Tagaytay are ideal) with awesome returns in less than 2 years.

I'm totally dumbfounded when I hear stories of people in the provinces selling their land and animals and end up in shanties in the Metros hoping to land a measly job or to pay OFW recruiters their fees. Absolutely stupid.

I've given up on manufacturing, no way can you compete with the Chinese in terms of cheap salaries, productivity and gov't support.

Mining, for me, is the dream industry, but that is way beyond my league. Billions will be needed to produce billions.

Agriculture is the best on any scale.

Good luck with your project!

 
At 6:54 PM, May 04, 2008, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Oh yeah, Anna. Get Cimaron a bitch so you can have more little Cimarons to work your farms later.

 
At 7:12 PM, May 04, 2008, Blogger Tongue's Wrath said...

Bambit,
My ancestors were rice farmers, too. As a kid, It was amazing to watch any two of my grannies alternately pound like clockwork on the "lusong" without tangling. I would even try my hand at "nilupak" on the same thing using either cassava or saba whenever I had the chance to make that bumpy 18-hour trip to Naga from Manila.

On rice sufficiency, our wasteful style of old didn't stop us from producing surplus stocks we had enough left for our own use even when the lure of exporting was very tempting.

In recent decades, however, many farmers gave in to a different temptation: selling their land and becoming instant Millionaires! Gone now are the infinite green fields that bounded the highways of SLEX. In their place, you find endless rows of subdivisions and industrial parks.

Just imagine how many tons of rice these lands use to produce.

***********

Bambit,
Welcome to the blog!

 
At 4:00 AM, May 06, 2008, Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

Tongue!

Is that true? "Ten hectares of rice nets a Million Pesos a year (at 60% net profits)." with only 10 hectares? Wow!


How is that possible? I know my Mom and my sister will be up to speed but I'd like to know for my own education how that's done (for rice planting on 10 hectares to be profitable)

Imagine 1,000,000 Pesos net profit -- I'd take that anytime!

Actually when I was a little girl, I've always wanted to go into farming but livestock, breeding cows but life took me elsewhere, heh. Dad had a ranch in Isabela and in Naga where I used to spend my school holidays as a toddler -- loved it. I first learned to ride in Isabela as a child taught by Dad's ranch tauhan -- haha! my kids say I ride awful but I can do the jumps no problem -- iyon nga lang walang glamour, hahah!

My brother has a tilapia fishpond and a bit of sugar cane plantation -- he was the one who told me to convert my farm in Pinas into rice plantation.

Thanks loads for the encouragement!

 
At 4:03 AM, May 06, 2008, Blogger HILLBLOGGER said...

You remember my Cimaron hah!

By the way, re Cimaron -- you think an 11 year old Carabao male can still do a good stud job?

 
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