Saturday, November 26, 2005

On press (again) and rice imports

I have a similar concern with Aco regarding our press coverage in certain policies. Few weeks ago, the 'consensus' was "fuel price hike is evil," with the portraits of frustrated (urban) population after the policy.

Nowadays, the media reported a series of protest against government's rice import policy. Again, this policy is also considered as 'evil' because it will harm the (rural) farmers.
One leading daily paper published a news (looks more like a feature than news for me) titled "Rice husk price continued falling - decision to import rice has been widely rejected." This story was following an earlier feature, in the first page, about how the decision to import was rejected by the 'people'.

OK, so raising the fuel price was an evil policy. Now, importing rice, as a means to keep food price down, is also evil. Rendra once asked "Good deeds -- good deeds to whom that you meant, Sir?" I am not sure whether Rendra will agree that I am using his line to question the rejection for fuel price hike and plan to import rice. But his famous line is really relevant in this case, indeed.

Another media, interestingy belongs to the same group as the previous one, still wrote a good editorial in this issue, though. The editor pointed out that:

The imported rice will only amount to about 0.002 percent of national consumption, which is estimated at 32.85 million tons this year, against national production of 33 million tons. ... In fact, past experience has shown that farm-gate rice prices always remain stagnant even when retail prices are rising sharply, meaning that the farmers rarely benefit from rice price increases, except those mandated by the government.

The editorial could even be stronger if they quote the SUSENAS statistics regarding the composition of farmers (land-owners vs share-croppers), and how the share-croppers -- which are the majority -- will be benefited from lower rice price. But it is a good editorial, nevertheless, and hope to see more of the likes of it.

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