But the trend is alarming than inspiring as many of us would like to believe. The departure of many from the bondage of the soil and cruel exploitation of such unjust social order had actually been gradually depleting the working hands that till our lands. Efforts of government to reclaim so much land or find compensation from those lost to land conversions would be futile due to the bitter reality that the work force in the farms had dwindled significantly over the years.

Many of our productive generation, those within the working-age population, had been pushed by poverty to become domestic and blue collar workers in foreign shores. We have lost so much to the rich countries of a powerful workforce that could potentially augment rice production. A huge number had been migrating to foreign shores to take odd jobs like caring for the old and sickly that offers high wages. Our government cannot afford to match both in pay and opportunity just to hold our workers from going abroad.

The situation is aggravated by the unabated exploitation of our farm workers who suffer economic difficulties despite their industry tilling farmlands. It starts with the misplaced priorities of the agriculture department that promotes organic and scientific farming as a mere advocacy but implements programs like the use of synthetic fertilizers. The high cost of farm preparation, farm inputs such as the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides cause the poor farmers to avail of usurious loans usually from rice traders who control the rice supply chain.

The apparently unjust setup places the poor farmers buried in debts that usually bear high, if not usurious interests. What they earn during harvest is inadequate to settle their loans. This causes the vicious cycle of borrowing and paying loans while living in poverty despite their sweat in rice farming as palay prices are purposely pegged low by rice traders who intentionally lower the market prices of rice.

With palay used as commodity for payment of loans, the harvest is captured by rice traders who have the capital to keep the stocks until the harvest season is over. When farmers have no more palay even for their own consumption, rice traders will again raise rice prices until the next harvest season when they would lower rice prices to justify their cheap buying price of palay. The hapless farmer had been at the losing end as they remain in the shackles of the proverbial bondage of the soil.
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