IN SEVERAL columns past, I discussed the rice importation problem from the point of view of lack of domestically-produced rice. I argued that importation is a risky long-term strategy for food security due to the possibility of the El Niño drought phenomenon simultaneously hitting the major rice producing countries such as Thailand and Vietnam causing widespread global rice shortages.

I then fought for more investments in new irrigation projects to boost our local rice production capacity towards the goal of attaining self-sufficiency.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

After P.Noy's recent Sona, suddenly the rice problem took a new twist. Now we are awash with too much imported rice. Gee, now I have more reasons to believe a friend who whispered to me a while back that the reason why national government executives were cold to the idea of putting in much larger investments in irrigation in the past decade is that there is more kick-back to be made from rice importation. The lesser rice produced locally, the bigger the importation, the bigger the kickback...so the logic goes, according to my friend.

In my previous columns, I took the viewpoint then that the importation of millions of tons per year was necessitated by the lack of locally-produced rice.

I didn't realize it could get much worse. The past outgoing administration did not even bother to wait for a rice shortage. In the dying days of their administration, they just were in so much hurry to collect the kick-backs before they bowed out so they placed huge orders in advance. Geez, what insatiable greed, indeed.

To those who have not read my related past articles, let me repeat some salient points related to our perennial rice shortage problems: according to official government statistics, the total area planted to rice nationwide is 3.9 million hectares, of which 3.1 million hectares are potentially irrigable. However, as of now, only 1.4 million hectares are irrigated.

If you will irrigate the remaining 1.7 million hectares of potential irrigable area, you will make them four times more productive. How? Instead of only one cropping per year, you double that to twice a year. Furthermore, instead of harvesting only 30-40 sacks per hectare, you double the yield to 60-80 sacks per hectare per harvest (a conservative estimate).

So who says the main reason we have a rice shortage is due to the lack of arable lands for expansion purposes? It is mainly due to the under-producing 1.7 million hectares of rain-fed rice lands due to lack of irrigation facilities.

Mr. President, it's about time we resuscitate the moribund irrigation development program that was so robust in the 1970s-80s. It's the sure-fire solution to our people's long-term food security problems.

*****

Management tip of the week: The main justification for hiring top-notch executives is for the company to have somebody who will take care of things during rough times. As they say, "any bum can steer a ship in calm waters."

So if you're an executive and you encounter a lot of problems every now and then, be thankful, stop complaining and don't get stressed out. It is precisely those problems that justify your continued employment. So learn to live with them.

******

Ismael Tabije is an International Development Consultant. Email feedback to: idtabije@gmail.com.