• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

As published in the Philippine Star recently entitled, “Corn prices fall to all-time low,” the corn farmers are now suffering the brunt as prices hit a low of P9 per kilogram, way below the production cost of P11 per kilogram. “The continued importation of corn substitute i.e., wheat feed, has severely damaged the local industry,” said  PhilMaize president Roger Navarro. The millions of corn farmers are now in deep pain and one farmer leader in extreme desperation in Kibawe, Bukidnon recently committed suicide having been buried in so much debt!

This debacle in the corn industry puts in clear categorical term the truism that everyone is profiting from farming – the fertilizer and seed dealers, the compradors, the usurers, the landlords – but not those who are working hard under the excruciating heat of the sun and the outpourings of the rains – the poor farmers!

Let us all pause for a while and reflect on some painful realities. Indeed, any short or long term development can be won or lost through agriculture, the Philippines being an agricultural country where 75% of the populace are in the rural areas and are into agriculture or agri-related activities. But farming in the Philippines is not anymore economically viable. Lately, based on a Study, four out of five rural people especially the young ones are leaving the rural areas and are migrating into the urban centers to work as drivers, janitor, waiter or what have you.

Why is farming becoming economically non-viable as now being experienced by the corn famers?  The same has been experienced by the millions of our rice farmers when “rice tarrification” has allowed the massive entry of cheap rice from different countries. Perhaps, we must ask, why rice or corn are produced cheaply in other countries in Asia and the Pacific? Well, don’t you know that when the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) was signed in 1997 in Cebu City that would allow the entry of products from other countries, what the King of Thailand did was to take-off his robe and crown and worked with the Thai farmers. The King’s order not to use chemicals as such kills the integrity of the soil; he further instructed the famers not to use tractors as the emissions contribute to climate change. Use carabaos, he said, because the wastes of the carabaos will fertilizer the soil.  So, they were able to lower down the production cost of rice to just P5 per kilogram.  In the Philippines, our farmers have been tied-up to conventional agriculture with so much requirement to use chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, thus, our famers are producing rice at P13 per kilogram.  So with that set-up, how can our rice compete?  Such is also true to corn production.  Because of this, the poorest of the poor now are the farmers.

This time, the cooperatives are now serving notice to one and all to strengthen local economies.  Let it be known as stated by the world-renowned environmentalist and physicist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a friend, that “localization of economies is a social and ecological imperative. Only goods and services that cannot be produced locally should be produced nonlocally and traded long distance.” Indeed, cooperativism is based on vibrant local economies, which support national and global economies. Global economy must not destroy and crush local economies nor must it create disposable people as now being done to our rice and corn farmers.

In cooperativism, the concern for human and non-human species comes together in a coherent, non-conflicting whole that provides an alternative to the world-view of corporate globalization, which gives rights only to corporations and which sees human and other beings as exploitable raw material or disposable waste. We must now pulsate with the limitless potential of an unfolding universe. It is hope in a time of hopelessness. It brings forth peace in a time of wars without end and it encourages us to love life fiercely and passionately.  That is the essence of cooperativism!