From: "Brian Fegan" <>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 1995 14:52:37 GMT+10
Subject: recent rice price hike, foot and mouth, locusts
Message-Id: <>

Recent rice price hike, foot and mouth, locusts

By Brian Fegan <>
19 September, 1995

Can anyone tell me what's afoot in Central Luzon agriculture. A villager writes assuming that I know all about it that the following hardships affect life:

1. The price of bigas has shot up from P650/cavan to P1050 for ordinaryo of low quality, yellowish, musty odour. White bigas was P1200. Barangay captains are handing out rice to long lines.

2. There is foot and mouth affecting pigs. Viajeros have been prohibited from moving livestock. So farmers cant sell and live weight price of pigs has fallen, but nagkakarne in palengke cant get pigs so price of pork is way up. Since foot and mouth also affects kalabaw, baka and kabayo that sounds serious.

3. There are balang locusts in Nueva Ecija.

4. Price of sugar has doubled.

Writer doesn't say if any of these are connected -- eg that disease caused a fall in cattle grazing kogunan of Sierra Madre, and or fall in burning off to freshen pasture. IN the period 1890s to 1930s such conditions were favourable locust buildup, then swarming and shift to ricelands.

Can anyone out there tell me what caused such a grave rice shortage?????

Has virtual abolition of NFA made it worse or mitigated the disaster?

Brian Fegan

Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 13:03:45 +1000
----- Transcript of session follows ----- From: "Brian Fegan" <>
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 1995 13:03:54 GMT+10
Subject: rice price etc
Message-Id: <>

1. Nick Cullather draws my attention to Asiaweek article of 1 Sept addressing El Nino drought, internal rice shortage, NFA having insufficient funds to import in time, the usual scapegoating of "Chinese" rice traders hoarding. Thanks Nick.

2. But that leaves the locusts in "Nueva Ecija". Why have they bred up? And it leaves the foot and mouth that is reported to be affecting the pigs (but not its usual target cattle and buffalo?). Maybe pigs are just more politically sensitive via pork price and closer due big investments in pig factory farms in a belt of towns just outside Marcos decreed 80 Km pollution exclusion zone around Manila.

Its been a long time since report of locust outbreak in Luzon. Early 20th century outbreaks were associated with the 1890s crash in numbers of kalabaw, cattle and horses causing grasslands to grow ungrazed (and presumably unfired to freshen the kogun) and causing some riceland and cornland to be abandoned to grass. Animal numbers declined 1890s to 1915 or so due to foot-and-mouth, rinderpest and of course the soldiers of all sides and bandits running off farmers cattle as draught animals &/or to eat.

If that "explanation" is true, ie that ungrazed grasslands allow locust breeding, then why are there more grasslands growing long in Nueva Ecija this year? The loggers cleared the Sierra Madre ridges, with aid of the US 6x6 truck, beginning 1945. When C. Luzon logs were gone they shifted to Cagayan Valley beginning about 1960. Of course in the usual sequence, kaingineros, charcoal makers, wood cutters, and cattle herds of politically well-connected people followed the loggers trails into the mountains. Their activities helped ensure that the forest could not regenerate. Crucially, the kaingineros clearing on slopes allowed fires to escape. The herders deliberately set fire to grasslands of kogun and talahib to freshen them for grazing as they are too tough when tall. In the 1970s I used to see about March the fires lighting up the ridges by night.

So I am positing that the grasslands have been very extensive since 1950s, but are too steep to be converted to paddyfields, so some activity on them hitherto prevented locust outbreaks.

Maybe the cattle plus fires helped interrupt the locust breeding cycle in grasslands. But what would have stopped the cattle and/or fires?

i) if truces with and defections from NPA have reduced PC/INP time spent chasing NPA, they plus DENR may have actually tried and succeeded to enforce laws against illegal grazing and illegal burning grasslands. That seems improbable: the grazers are still too rich to prosecute and the kaingineros too poor.

ii) if a general sensitivity about ecological issues and education program has caused change of sentiment, grazers and kaingineros etc might have stopped firing grasslands. That seems improbable in the face of greed and need.

iii) I noted in January 1995 that there has been a rash of tree planting since 1986-7, NB of Indian mango, in the grassland foothills of Bulacan by small farmers and also by landowners and grazing leaseholders.

Governor Pagdanganan and mayors encouraged it from 1986, helped set up municipal seedling nurseries and spread of technology for grafting, spraying to induce flowering, fruit setting, control insects, control anthracnose fungus that kills off fruit stem. Contractors now do all those, plus picking, packing and delivery to export fruit packing stations for a price of half the fruit, the other half to the owner on whose land the trees stand.

So tree owners would discourage firing grasslands and extinguish wildfire to prtoect their own investment. Greed and Need would press that way. But are there enough tree owners in the appropriate places to make a significant difference to burning extent ands frequency? I simply don't know.

iv) the low yields and high drought risk on rainfed contour paddyfields made rice farming marginal in the poor soils of the foothills. But in the 1970s, HYV plus fertiliser allowed extensive conversion to paddyfield. By the end of 1970s the Green Revolution world glut dropped the price of palay, so some marginal fields were abandoned to grassland. It is some of that that was planted to mango etc.. Maybe the effect of a couple of years of El Nino drought, of low palay prices, and of tight farm credit once again wiped out marginal farmers and led to abandonment of rainfed contour paddies to grassland. That may have let locusts build up.

v) foot-and mouth has been running all dry season in the grasslands and caused some death of cattle plus graziers slaughtered rather than lose their beasts. That allowed grass to grow up and graziers didnt bother to burn off.

So I'm floundering, cooking up hypotheses with no way to test them.

Does anyone out there know what's been happening in the Sierra madre foothills of Central Luzon that may have allowed locust buildups to recur this year after many years in which they have not been reported?