A Thai “tsunami” threatening 7 million jobs in the country’s livestock industry
In the 1960s and 1970s, the “green revolution” changed the traditional way of producing rice. New seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural techniques and infrastructures were introduced and put into widespread use. This was preceded by the hijacking of our traditional rice varieties by the International Rice and Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos that hid the traditional seeds in their seed bank. Pharmaceutical giant corporations reaped enormous profits. Water from the rivers was commodified through the irrigation systems. Undoubtedly, this led to spectacular increase in rice production. Tenants were all the more exploited since the increase in yield only benefited the landlords because of existing tenancy relations.
At present, production has stalled and progressively decreased. It is “not fashionable for government now to help poor people grow food for other people, because ‘the market’ is supposed to take care of all the problems.”
The long established agricultural production that has been organized by families, communities, and tribes has progressively been pushed aside by agribusiness for high value crops. Mindanao, for example, has opened up more than 600,000 hectares of its prime agricultural lands to agribusiness whose export crops include among others, banana, pineapple, mango, papaya, tomato, asparagus, coffee, and tomato. This production requires monoculture or single-crop production, massive use of fertilizers and pesticides, and heavy use of water. As a consequence, thousands of Filipinos are displaced from their lands on the one hand. On the other, farmers and tribes are put at the disadvantage in dealing with the corporations.
The liberalization of Philippine agriculture has also led to the opening up of the local market to subsidize products from capitalist countries – “which are sold at prices lower than their costs thereby permitting prices even lower than those of the local products.” Local faming has been effectively finished off like the Northern Luzon farmers producing onions and garlic. The local ‘patis’ (fish sauce) industry has long been non-existent.
Indeed, the entry of Charoen Pokphand in agriculture is no surprise. Charoen Pokphand Foods Philippine Corporation* was established in the country in 2007 and started its business in shrimp hatchery.
The Board of Investment’s (BOI) approval of Charoen project which has an annual stock capacity of 25, 453 heads for parent stock and 3, 647 metric tons for slaughter hogs and 21,847 metric tons of chicken is the last nail on the coffin of local hog and poultry raisers in the country. Earlier, the local entrepreneurs engaged in hog and poultry raising, and even the backyard livestock production have suffered from enormous losses due to widespread meat smuggling.
Since livestock is horizontally linked with other agricultural activities, the ill effects of the BOI’s approval will be felt among the rice, corn, coconut and sugarcane since the domestic swine industry gets its raw materials from these crops. It is feared that 7 million Filipino will be displaced from their jobs because of the approval of Charoen’s project. Charoen only seeks to employ eighty (80) employees for its projects and is only expected to generate employment for only 1,500 people. Chareon is a big player in the global food industry. The global food industry has no intention of feeding the Filipinos. It is organized to generate profit for them. As the editors of Hungry for Profit write, “The enormous power exerted by the largest agribusiness/food corporations allows them essentially to control the cost of their raw materials purchased from farmers while at the same time keeping prices of food to the general public at high enough levels to ensure large profits.”
Equally disturbing is the news that the Chareon’s piggery in Samal, Bataan and its feedmill in Balanga, Bataan are operating as private fiefdoms. Personnel of the local offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) of the province are not allowed to enter their premises. This is no different from the Korean Hanjin shipyard in Subic, Zambales that is declared off limits to local personnel of the Department of Health (DOH). The mindset of US military personnel deployed in the country is fast contaminating the mode of thinking of corporate managers operating also in the country.
After the agricultural crops, livestock industry is offered at the altar of neoliberalism. Pnoy’s “matuwid na daan” has always been a social contract with foreign capital. Specifically, this “matuwid na daan” will only result in the marginalization of 7 million Filipinos and condemn their families to poverty. It also facilitates the violation of the country’s sovereignty at the factory level operation of these foreign corporations.
Kilusan extends its solidarity with the domestic hog and poultry raisers in Central Luzon in frustrating the maneuvers of Chareon, a giant foreign food conglomerate. We are one with you in asserting first the people’s rights to food, on the principle that domestic agricultural production caters primarily for the local needs and defending agriculture from the onslaughts of foreign capital.
* It is a subsidiary of Charoen Pokphand Group also known as the Chia Tai Group in China. It is a Thai conglomerate that operates in agriculture and food, retail and distribution and telecommunications spread in 15 countries. Its annual revenue for the year 2010 was USD 30 Billion.
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