Rice self-sufficiency is timely, appropriate and attainable
June 6, 2016
Rice self-sufficiency is neither obsolete nor unattainable. Some economists imply that food security can be had even if the country is a rice importer and that farmers should shift to planting other crops where the country has more “comparative advantage” i.e. shifting to planting cash crops rather than for food.
However, rice self-sufficiency is the only way the country can ensure food security for the millions of Filipinos without relying on the unstable supply of rice in the world market.
Under Aquino’s Daang Matuwid, the country failed to attain rice self-sufficiency because it resorted to rice importation as a policy rather than a measure of last resort. Because of this reliance on importation, the government has been negligent in developing support infrastructure for agriculture, primarily the irrigation of the rest of the potential irrigable rice lands. It also allowed the conversion of prime agricultural lands.
According to data from Philippine Statistics Authority, the total area harvested for palay went down to 4.656 million hectares in 2015 from 4.739 million hectares in 2014. Of the total 4.656 million hectares, only 3.33 million hectares are irrigated while 1.42M hectares are rain fed. The irrigated paddies produced an estimated 13.9 million MT of palay or an average of 4.31 MT of palay per hectare last year. If only the government will develop the remaining 1.42M hectares of rain fed rice lands, the country may be able to produce an estimated 6 million MT of additional rice or more.
Past administrations has also failed to fully implement the mandate of the National Food Authority (NFA) by not providing appropriate and sufficient funds for the agency to procure its mandated 10% take on the country’s staple food production.
The call for rice self-sufficiency is timely, appropriate and attainable. Our country can achieve this through the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform program that provides land to the tillers for free complemented by support subsidies for capital, inputs as well as provision of adequate post-harvest facilities and agricultural infrastructure support especially irrigation.