“RICE is a staple food all over the world regardless of location and economic position. Develop countries and developing countries alike produce and consume rice. The leading food crops are rice, wheat and corn. However, rice is by far the most important, especially in counties of low to middle income. It is a staple for close to half of the world’s population and, therefore, production remains robust alongside economic growth and population with Asia being the largest consumer, and rice accounts for up to 50 percent of daily caloric supply. Xxx.” This is the opening statement of an article in economics by Benjamin Elisha Sawe posted on the website worldatlas.com.
In that article, it identified the top rice-consuming countries, with China as the world’s biggest consumer and producer of rice with its consumption pegged at 142,700 metric tons annually, followed by India with its consumption of 97,350 metric tons annually, then Indonesia that consumes 37,400 metric tons annually, Bangladesh with 35,200 metric tons consumed annually, Vietnam with 22,100 tons consumed annually and then finally, the Philippines with its consumption of 13,000 metric tons annually. The article further noted that “rice is essentially the most important food crop with a key significance in the developing world most notably Asia with other countries including Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines where rice is equated with food security and is even associated with political stability.”
From the above, we now see and understand how vital rice is not only as our main staple but also serving as an indicator of the status of our food security.
It is crucial then to realize that to strengthen our food security, and as pointed out by MinDa Cabinet Secretary Manny Piñol, there may be a need to immediately revisit Republic Act 11203, also known as the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), and determine whether changes are needed before its continued implementation in order to arrest the downturn in the price of palay produced by local farmers. Even with the inclusion and implementation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), this may not be enough to pull out and raise our farmers from the economic quagmire that they are in. Even DA Secretary William Dar has admitted that with the implementation of the RTL the fall in the palay prices was expected and while mitigation measures such as the RCEF have been introduced there is no escaping the fact that because of cheap rice imports local farmers are now hard-pressed to sell their palay at reasonable prices and compete with foreign products.
The real danger here is if the government will allow the RTL to continue it might not be long before farmers will no longer plant rice and instead plant some other crop that would be more competitive in the market. If this happens and because of the RTL, we will then throw out the window whatever opportunity we have of becoming locally rice sufficient and instead simply rely on imported rice for our staple food. In other words, we begin to abandon our plan for self-reliance in terms of rice production. To emphasize the dire straits of our local farmers the DA has already confirmed that at least 50 thousand hectares of rice farms have been abandoned last year because of the low price of palay with farmers shifting to some other crops to sustain their livelihood.
So, if we think about rice which is our staple food at the table it is important that we also think about the plight of our local rice farmers who are now suffering because they cannot sell their palay at a good price. A review of the RTL is to address the concerns of our local farmers as well as strengthen measures towards self-sufficiency, food security, and as aptly pointed out in the web article even political stability.