DAVAO CITY—Incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Monday the Aquino administration’s agriculture officials were conspiring to increase the country’s rice importations so they could make money.
“Indeed, there is a conspiracy. Some government officials are open to importation because that’s where they earn,” Piñol told reporters in Kidapawan City.
Citing his dialogues with stakeholders and some NFA personnel, Piñol cited the rampant corruption in the Department of Agriculture as “billions of pesos were lost due to rice smuggling”—with government officials getting a rebate of $20 per metric ton of imported rice from such counties like Vietnam.
“We are importing because of the shortfall, and about two million metric tons every year. Multiply that by $20, and that’s how much money they are earning,” Piñol said.
The former governor of North Cotabato, himself a farmer, is embarking on a “Biyaheng Bukid” across the country “to see for myself the conditions of the poor farmers and fishermen.”
Piñol said farmers and fishermen are being cheated by traders and suffering from government neglect.
In his recent trip to Zamboanga, Piñol recounted that the lack of irrigation and irrigation systems in most provinces made them “a net importer of rice even if they had the potential of producing enough for their residents.”
“The average rice production in the Zamboanga City area is a pitiful 3.5-metric tons during the rainy season and a measly 1.7-metric tons during the dry season,” Piñol said. John Paolo Bencito
Piñol also recounted how the vegetable farmers were complaining about their lack of access to good seeds and good roads to bring their products to the market, and how the traders were forming a cartel on the trade of seaweed.
He said that in his first 100 days in office, he would be checking all the irrigation facilities in the country.
He is expected to assume the post of Agriculture secretary after Duterte’s oath-taking on June 30.