Rice consumption

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

THERE should not be any doubting of the fact that Filipinos are dominantly rice “eaters” or to put it in a more business way, consumers. This means that we prefer to eat rice than any other cereal we can openly offer in the market. This is a traditional situation that always prevail in the market condition of the country from year in to year out. This is a matter that our government and national leaders should have taken cognizance of, since our population is increasing fast.

It cannot be denied that from the beginning of our history, when national governance began to develop into a more formal system, coming up with a more structured delivery of services as needed by a people slowly developing a service-oriented organization, food-marketing has the rice as the traditional commodity most sought after, indicating that it is the consumers’ preferred cereal commodity. It should not, therefore, be any
surprise that this is so now as it was before.

Many years ago, a similar crisis to the supply of rice occurred as it has now.

Yesterday, it was urged by the Department of Agriculture (DA) that our people should try to eat alternative food to rice like kamote (sweet potato) or balanghoy (cassava) also known in some areas as kamoteng kahoy. However these root crops are known in different places, the fact remains that these make good alternative food to the more expensive rice, which is said to be getting in short supply.

But in many areas in Central Visayas, especially in Cebu, corn has always been a strong alternative. Thus, the National Food Authority while admitting that rice has been truly holding its own in the local market as basic food of the people, still the emerging shortage in rice supply does not seem to worry much the local market. Many of our people are somehow amenable to having corn and the root crops as their alternative basic food.

During the war, when I was only in my early teens, I recall that we had kamoteng bagon (sweet potato) “skinned” then chopped into small chunks and mixed with either corn or rice, then this was cooked just like the manner rice or corn is cooked—the husked palay or ground corn with the chopped sweet potato or cassava or chopped green banana (saging kardaba) in boiled water. I did all these as a sort of help to my elders who had to go and secure the basic food supply.

Long after the war years, I was drawn to the way rice became basic food to most of us. As an associate editor then of the Sunday Times Magazine of the Manila Times Publications, Inc. , I wrote a feature article called the “Filipino Farmer and His Grain of Rice.” It came out in one of the STM issues in March, 1954 (if I recall correctly). I wrote about how rice farmers in Mindanao sold their product at the mercy of Chinese rice traders who communicated the price at source from the vast rice fields of South Cotabato, to the port of Davao, then to the market in Cebu City.

It was a well-managed marketing system of rice in the Visayas and Mindanao, and our poor rice farmers were not match to the wily traders. History may be repeating itself.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 19, 2013.


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