Friday, April 25, 2008

Unholyhours Tackles the Rice Crisis

by queueing to these sites:
1) 30 Years Ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened?
The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots

By BILL QUIGLEY

Riots in Haiti over explosive rises in food costs have claimed the lives of six people. There have also been food riots world-wide in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Economist, which calls the current crisis the silent tsunami, reports that last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%, but since January rice prices have risen 141%. The reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, as well as the push to create biofuels from cereal crops. (see comments for the rest)

2) Radical Science can Help

3) My idol Luis Teodoro on rice and crisis: It's an attribute the left everywhere shares. The right may have the money, the power, and the guns, but it's the left that has the brains, the organizational will, and the passion to sustain any fight. That capacity is being demonstrated particularly in Latin America, where leftist and center-left governments have been elected in key countries, among them Bolivia, Paraguay and Venezuela. Vying with that development is the Maoist triumph in the recent elections in Nepal, right here in Asia. What was instrumental in all these instances was the leftist capacity for painstaking organizing, mass education and mobilization, often against near-impossible odds. It helps explain why the Arroyo regime has filed murder charges against and intensified its surveillance of Ocampo and company-- seemingly despite, but actually because, of the crisis over


rice. More on comments

4) Congo has a different crisis. Witches have been going around the country, stealing men's penises. In the Philippines, they get our livers and in Africa, Hmmmmm! SOS PCIJ!

5) The 5th Gathering of the (Anne) Rice Philippines (left) Hmmm. Rice vampires

6) Bad spellers: The 1000 peso note depicts Jose Abad Santos, Vincent Lim, and Josefa Llanes Escoda. On the reverse you can see the rice terasses in Banawe, and some tribal artifacts. You won't come across this note very often, and you shouldn't expect your taxi driver to have change from it.

7) Oo nga naman, why only WHITE rice? Bakit ayaw niyo ng BROWN rice? Kasi mga colonial mentality kayo! Puro lang whitening ang alam niyo. It's beautiful to be dark. Darak is the best.

8) As the bishops insist (including Bishop as*lickers Rene Q. Bas and Antonio Montalvan III), it's corruption not population. Never population, ha! And the population of the Philippines can fit in Makati. Never population, please. Let the Pinoys multiply because Jesus loves the poor. Hey, look at the good side. We will supply the workers in the FUTURE! Condoms are Hell's raincoat. Imagine na lang if former Diosdado Macapagal used a condom, then there would have been no PGMA! And look na lang at the sons of the president. Good people. Shades of PGMA with the combined libido of their parents. Would we allow them to wear condoms. No way.

9) Condoleeza Rice

10) Let them eat cake, as the Americans would now say

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3 Comments:

Blogger frank cimatu said...

April 21, 2008
30 Years Ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened?
The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots

By BILL QUIGLEY

Riots in Haiti over explosive rises in food costs have claimed the lives of six people. There have also been food riots world-wide in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Economist, which calls the current crisis the silent tsunami, reports that last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%, but since January rice prices have risen 141%. The reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, as well as the push to create biofuels from cereal crops.

Hermite Joseph, a mother working in the markets of Port au Prince, told journalist Nick Whalen that her two kids are "like toothpicks"they' re not getting enough nourishment. Before, if you had a dollar twenty-five cents, you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil. Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and is not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With a dollar twenty-five, you can't even make a plate of rice for one child."

The St. Claire's Church Food program, in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port au Prince, serves 1000 free meals a day, almost all to hungry children -- five times a week in partnership with the What If Foundation. Children from Cite Soleil have been known to walk the five miles to the church for a meal. The cost of rice, beans, vegetables, a little meat, spices, cooking oil, propane for the stoves, have gone up dramatically. Because of the rise in the cost of food, the portions are now smaller. But hunger is on the rise and more and more children come for the free meal. Hungry adults used to be allowed to eat the leftovers once all the children were fed, but now there are few leftovers.

The New York Times lectured Haiti on April 18 that "Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself." Unfortunately, the article did not talk at all about one of the main causes of the shortages -- the fact that the U.S. and other international financial bodies destroyed Haitian rice farmers to create a major market for the heavily subsidized rice from U.S. farmers. This is not the only cause of hunger in Haiti and other poor countries, but it is a major force.

Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for their Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The U.S. has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened. "Within less than two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they called 'Miami rice.' The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as cheap, U.S. subsidized rice, some of it in the form of 'food aid,' flooded the market. There was violence, 'rice wars,' and lives were lost."

"American rice invaded the country,"recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who has been the pastor at St. Claire and an outspoken human rights advocate, agrees. "In the 1980s, imported rice poured into Haiti, below the cost of what our farmers could produce it. Farmers lost their businesses. People from the countryside started losing their jobs and moving to the cities. After a few years of cheap imported rice, local production went way down."
Still the international business community was not satisfied. In 1994, as a condition for U.S. assistance in returning to Haiti to resume his elected Presidency, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced by the U.S., the IMF, and the World Bank to open up the markets in Haiti even more.

But, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, what reason could the U.S. have in destroying the rice market of this tiny country?

Haiti is definitely poor. The U.S. Agency for International Development reports the annual per capita income is less than $400. The United Nations reports life expectancy in Haiti is 59, while in the US it is 78. Over 78% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day, more than half live on less than $1 a day.

Yet Haiti has become one of the very top importers of rice from the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008 numbers show Haiti is the third largest importer of US rice - at over 240,000 metric tons of rice. (One metric ton is 2200 pounds).

Rice is a heavily subsidized business in the U.S. Rice subsidies in the U.S. totaled $11 billion from 1995 to 2006. One producer alone, Riceland Foods Inc of Stuttgart Arkansas, received over $500 million dollars in rice subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The Cato Institute recently reported that rice is one of the most heavily supported commodities in the U.S. -- with three different subsidies together averaging over $1 billion a year since 1998 and projected to average over $700 million a year through 2015. The result? "Tens of millions of rice farmers in poor countries find it hard to lift their families out of poverty because of the lower, more volatile prices caused by the interventionist policies of other countries."

In addition to three different subsidies for rice farmers in the U.S., there are also direct tariff barriers of 3 to 24 percent, reports Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute -- the exact same type of protections, though much higher, that the U.S. and the IMF required Haiti to eliminate in the 1980s and 1990s.

U.S. protection for rice farmers goes even further. A 2006 story in the Washington Post found that the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all; including $490,000 to a Houston surgeon who owned land near Houston that once grew rice.

And it is not only the Haitian rice farmers who have been hurt.

Paul Farmer saw it happen to the sugar growers as well. "Haiti, once the world's largest exporter of sugar and other tropical produce to Europe, began importing even sugar-- from U.S. controlled sugar production in the Dominican Republic and Florida. It was terrible to see Haitian farmers put out of work. All this sped up the downward spiral that led to this month's food riots."

After the riots and protests, President Rene Preval of Haiti agreed to reduce the price of rice, which was selling for $51 for a 110 pound bag, to $43 dollars for the next month. No one thinks a one month fix will do anything but delay the severe hunger pains a few weeks.

Haiti is far from alone in this crisis. The Economist reports a billion people worldwide live on $1 a day. The US-backed Voice of America reports about 850 million people were suffering from hunger worldwide before the latest round of price increases.

Thirty three countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told the Wall Street Journal. When countries have many people who spend half to three-quarters of their daily income on food, "there is no margin of survival."

In the U.S., people are feeling the world-wide problems at the gas pump and in the grocery. Middle class people may cut back on extra trips or on high price cuts of meat. The number of people on food stamps in the US is at an all-time high. But in poor countries, where malnutrition and hunger were widespread before the rise in prices, there is nothing to cut back on except eating. That leads to hunger riots.
In the short term, the world community is sending bags of rice to Haiti. Venezuela sent 350 tons of food. The US just pledged $200 million extra for worldwide hunger relief. The UN is committed to distributing more food.

What can be done in the medium term? The US provides much of the world's food aid, but does it in such a way that only half of the dollars spent actually reach hungry people. US law requires that food aid be purchased from US farmers, processed and bagged in the US and shipped on US vessels -- which cost 50% of the money allocated. A simple change in US law to allow some local purchase of commodities would feed many more people and support local farm markets.

In the long run, what is to be done? The President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who visited Haiti last week, said "Rich countries need to reduce farms subsidies and trade barriers to allow poor countries to generate income with food exports. Either the world solves the unfair trade system, or every time there's unrest like in Haiti, we adopt emergency measures and send a little bit of food to temporarily ease hunger."

Citizens of the USA know very little about the role of their government in helping create the hunger problems in Haiti or other countries. But there is much that individuals can do. People can donate to help feed individual hungry people and participate with advocacy organizations like Bread for the World or Oxfam to help change the U.S. and global rules which favor the rich countries. This advocacy can help countries have a better chance to feed themselves.

Meanwhile, Merisma Jean-Claudel, a young high school graduate in Port-au-Prince told journalist Wadner Pierre "...people can't buy food. Gasoline prices are going up. It is very hard for us over here. The cost of living is the biggest worry for us, no peace in stomach means no peace in the mind�I wonder if others will be able to survive the days ahead because things are very, very hard."

"On the ground, people are very hungry,"reported Fr. Jean-Juste. "Our country must immediately open emergency canteens to feed the hungry until we can get them jobs. For the long run, we need to invest in irrigation, transportation, and other assistance for our farmers and workers."

In Port au Prince, some rice arrived in the last few days. A school in Fr. Jean-Juste's parish received several bags of rice. They had raw rice for 1000 children, but the principal still had to come to Father Jean-Juste asking for help. There was no money for charcoal, or oil.

Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children, stood in a long line Saturday in Port au Prince to get UN donated rice and beans. When Rodman got the small bags, he told Ben Fox of the Associated Press, "The beans might last four days. The rice will be gone as soon as I get home."


Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
He can be reached at quigley77@gmail. com

10:19 AM  
Blogger frank cimatu said...

RICE AND CRISIS

By Luis V. Teodoro

THE official title of Raul Gonzalez in the Arroyo regime of ironies
is justice secretary. When asked early this week if Bayan Muna party
list congressman Satur Ocampo was under government surveillance,
Gonzalez answered the question with another question: "Why, does he
have a lot of rice?"

The regime, said Gonzalez, was "monitoring rice," by which he
meant the hoarding of that staple, among others, as well as the state
of rice prices. "These leftists," Gonzalez continued, "why should we
monitor them?"

While Gonzalez meant the answer to be self-evident, his
question was far from rhetorical. Armed men likely to be from either
the police or the military were observed-they didn't seem to mind
being seen-in the vicinity of Ocampo's residence in Quezon City last
Sunday, having trailed Ocampo, who had just returned from an official
trip to Canada, from the airport. Ocampo's neighbors observed two
teams on motorcycles as well as two other vehicles.

The incident followed the filing of murder charges last
Friday against Ocampo and his party-list colleagues Liza Maza of
Gabriela and Teodoro Casino of Bayan Muna, as well as former
Anakpawis Congressman Rafael Mariano. The same thing had happened
last year, when Ocampo was also trailed and his movements surveilled.
He was finally arrested over murder charges in Leyte that later
turned out to be so absurd they had to be dropped.

In implying that the regime had nothing to do with it,
Gonzalez as well as the police were thus being disingenuous. The
campaign against leftists, whether armed or unarmed, but specifically
of the variety represented by Ocampo, is central to the Arroyo
regime's focus on its survival.

The regime is also anxious to prevent further public
discussion over such issues as its legitimacy and the runaway
corruption at its very core. But it also correctly sees Ocampo et.
al. as capable of mobilizing the warm bodies needed to oust
governments- with the difference that, unlike the warm bodies it has
mobilized for all those "unity walks" and free food camp-outs,
Ocampo et.al.'s warm bodies are at the same time highly politicized,
extremely articulate, and passionately committed.

It's an attribute the left everywhere shares. The right may
have the money, the power, and the guns, but it's the left that has
the brains, the organizational will, and the passion to sustain any
fight. That capacity is being demonstrated particularly in Latin
America, where leftist and center-left governments have been elected
in key countries, among them Bolivia, Paraguay and Venezuela. Vying
with that development is the Maoist triumph in the recent elections
in Nepal, right here in Asia. What was instrumental in all these
instances was the leftist capacity for painstaking organizing, mass
education and mobilization, often against near-impossible odds.

It helps explain why the Arroyo regime has filed murder
charges against and intensified its surveillance of Ocampo and
company-- seemingly despite, but actually because, of the crisis over
rice.

That crisis has the potential to bring the political crisis
over regime legitimacy, lack of transparency and corruption to a
head. The crisis is escalating in the context not only of that
political crisis, but also in that of the hunger that has been
spreading among more and more Filipinos during the Arroyo reign.

One in every five Filipinos-or 20 percent of the population--
experienced hunger at least once every three months last year.
Although for the poorest of the poor getting enough rice to assuage
hunger pangs was problematic, the staple was at least available
somehow to poor families, among whom the common practice in the
absence of other food is to flavor it with salt. With rice prices
rising due to a combination of factors, among them hoarding,
profiteering and corruption, as well as expected supply shortfalls,
even the prospects of a few salt-flavored mouthfuls of rice to stave
off hunger are shutting down for the poor.

Panic is among the results, evident in the long lines that
have materialized wherever cheap government rice is being sold.
Unrest, the inevitable companion of a hungry population, could soon
follow, as it has in the form of food riots in Haiti, Indonesia,
Bangladesh, and several African countries.

In most cases, the food riots were unorganized, spontaneous
outbreaks. Although the political conditions in each country
differed, it seems that what they had in common was the relative
weaknesses of political and social movements, except in Haiti, where
the riots forced the resignation of the Alexis government.

Contrast this with the Philippines, where hunger, perennial
crisis and the existence of political and social movements as well as
civil society groups eager to hold the Arroyo regime to account could
result in precisely the explosive demand for regime change Arroyo and
company have so far succeeded in preventing.

The possibilities are unlikely to have escaped the regime.
Awareness of those possibilities among regime capos explains the
filing of charges against Ocampo and company, and even the revival of
libel charges against Archbishop Oscar Cruz, one of the regime's
leading Church nemeses, as well as rumored plans to revive various
charges against the United Opposition's Jejomar Binay and others.

Is the regime monitoring rice? It is. But it's also
monitoring people like Ocampo, Cruz and Binay, as well as militant
and civil society groups, the rice crisis being a possible trigger
for the escalation and resolution of the crisis that has been
simmering in this country for the last three years.

10:20 AM  
Blogger The Nashman said...

ayaw ko sana mag-comment pero katakot-takot naman yang mga Rice Vampires....i think there is enough ebedens to charge them with rice hoarding...

1:02 AM  

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