Hard to believe

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By Dennis Limlingan

The Advocate

Monday, August 25, 2014


AGRICULTURE Secretary Proceso Alcala must be dreaming when he said that the country shall have 98 percent rice self-sufficiency by the end of this year. With the current situation on our rice supply, the secretary should wake up on his dream and do something to attain his aspiration of making the Philippines rice sufficient.

Alacala’s statement was said before his department’s budget hearing before the House of Representatives when he was grilled by congressmen particularly on rice sufficiency and the current state of the agriculture sector.

His projection of 96 to 98 percent rice self-sufficiency by the end of 2014 is far from reality as the government has increased in importation of rice from other countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

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We may be sufficient in rice but the sources are from other countries and not from our own farmlands. The rice sufficiency of a country is determined on the number of production of its own soil and not dependent on imports. If we have rice sufficiency, then we need not do importation and even resort to exportation if we have only enough rice for our own.

Alcala of course has his safety net on his statement, that we can attain such figure if weather permits and that there will be not much damage on our farmlands. We have to take note that we are still on the rainy season and so far have not experienced very deadly typhoons.

For 2013, according to the secretary, we have attained 96 percent rice sufficiency and could have reached 100 percent if not for typhoon Yolanda. As expected, he blames the typhoon for the far believable figure. If I may ask him, how come other countries such as Vietnam and Thailand who are likewise visited by typhoons have been rice-sufficient for the past years? They are even the leading exporters of rice in many parts of the world as a matter of fact.

I find irony in the hard-to-believe statement of Secretary Alcala, thus figures said we were 96% rice self-sufficient in 2013 and yet the country has imported 500,000 metric tons of rice. Again, how can we have 98% rice self-sufficiency for this year when we are importing 1.3 million metric tons of rice?

The Philippines in fact is one of the top rice importers in the world to this date and the government seemed to have done nothing to address this concern. This is despite the fact that we are agriculture-based country and one of our major products is supposed to be rice.

One reason for this perhaps is the high cost of production of rice in our country where the input is higher than the output. The lack of subsidy of the government and support for our farmers is missing.

The first thing that the Department of Agriculture should do is to lower the importation rate on rice by helping farmers reduce their production cost. This may come in the form of subsidies or discounts on seedlings, fertilizers, irrigation costs, insecticides and others.

We have to make the price of our rice competitive among other rice producers to attain sufficiency and we can do this perhaps by lowering the production cost.

The government should likewise put up post-production facilities such as solar dryers, harvesters and millers to somehow help our burdened farmers in their rice production. If only these facilities will be made available for them, we can then increase our production and lower its cost. We can never know that we can be rice importers someday, bringing back the glory that was in terms of rice production.

The mere fact that we are importing rice means that we are experiencing shortage in our rice supply, despite that we are on the rainy season, it can be noted that rice production is on its lean period during the dry season as farmers have a hard time coping up with irrigation costs.

We can perhaps expect more rice shortage next year when its summer.

***

For any comments, ideas, suggestions or opinions, text or call The Advocate at 09213636360 or send email at dencious@yahoo.com.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 26, 2014.

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