It’s the onions, stupid. And the Carrots. And the rice.

During the WTO meeting in HongKong last year, a lot of people were startled to see, among the anarchists and usual left wing semiprofessionla demonstrators, a bunch of well organized, well dressed Korean farmers having a demonstration.

We live in the rural Philippines, and the question here is about onions.If they are grown here , they sell for 20-40 pesos per KG . But if they are imported from China,and from Europe. This is good, because our poor people can buy them for 10-20 pesos per KG.But Local farmers are going broke, and what makes things worse is the charge that many of the importers don’t pay their taxes, or that the onions are smuggled into the Philippines.

In the hills north of here, the complaint is about carrots . Not only do Chinese carrots underprice local ones, but the “inspectors” are accused of overlooking pests on the crops that could destroy part of the local crops. LINK2 . So although local carrots are cheaper than importedones, the Chinese carrots’ pests could adversely affect local crops, destroying the livelihood of 700 000 families . The answer of course is quarantine of the infected crops and inspection, but no one believes that, despite many honest hard working officials, that a lot of carrots won’t sneak past the government inspectors.

The answer to this is, of course, exporting Philippine products. This runs into several problems, such as shipping charges, need to refrigerate fruits, and, of course, the artificially low value of Chinese currancy that makes Chinese exports so low.

There are other problems with free trade, (we never make money off our local chicken raising farm due to cheap imports).

The low prices of products imported has adversely affected local industries, yet cheap Chinese and other goods do enable poor people to buy things at a lower price. So who benefits?

Perhaps the end result will be large agribusinesses instead of small locally owned farms. This will destroy the culture and lead to furthur urbanization.

One reason for the local NPA (communists) is the idea that rich people benefit from all these things. However, since Manila is nearby, and since many locals have skills they can work in the Middle East, there are other alternatives to revolution. But something is wrong when ten percent of a country’s people work or live overseas, and it is their salaries that keep a country prosperous.

So globalization continues. Is it good or bad? Both.

The Philippines, whose labour costs are higher but whose people are better educated, are not only exporting workers but manufacturing specialized, better quality but  higher priced items to compete with the cheap Chinese trade. This means anything from our gormet organically grown rice to the local sandals and satin-lace jeweled Christmas balls for your tree.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines with her husband. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket


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