RETHINKING RICE POLICY

IT SEEMS like the government’s dream of attaining rice self–sufficiency will remain just like that - a dream.

This after the National Food Authority (NFA) recently reported that the country would still fall short of the required buffer stock even with the planned importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice.

The law mandates that NFA must ensure a stock for 15 days for the whole year and 30 days for the lean months. NFA’s current inventory of the main staple is only good for six days.

Studies indicated that about 32,000 metric tons of rice are consumed daily which means that the planned importation would only bolster the emergency stock for seven days. 

Conversely, this meant an additional 544,000 metric tons are still needed assuming that the targeted 250,000 metric tons would arrive at soonest time possible.

Amidst these rather ‘unwelcome’ developments, many observers and even ordinary people are now questioning the government’s standing rice policy.

This paper believes that it is high time for the current Duterte administration to rethink the current rice policy which is centered on the much-hyped self sufficiency. 

In fairness, the government particularly Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol unlike the previous administrations is doing everything to help and support local farmers in every way possible.

In fact, Pinol has been aggressively pursuing the Filipino First policy of buying rice grains first from local famers before filling up the added requirements through importation.

But a study conducted by Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) indicated that the policy of rice sufficiency is impractical because this could lead to upward spiral of rice prices.

In short, FEF whose members include former and present Cabinet officials, the academe as well as business and finance community- is saying that rice self-sufficiency is not the way to go.  

“Rice self-sufficiency is neither a desirable nor a practical objective for the Philippines, which is an archipelagic country,” FEF said in a statement.

Instead, it is recommending that the Philippines should forge a closer agricultural alliance with other rice producing countries ‘to guarantee the country’s food security just as Malaysia and Singapore have done’.

Essentially, the FEF is also supporting importation by the private sector stressing that a halt in importation even during harvest season could spike up rice prices that could worsen hunger and poverty in the country.

As it is, ensuring the country’s food security must therefore include all possible approaches that are aside from supporting domestic production, we must also open our doors to trade without compromising the interest of local farmers.

This might entail a lot of hard work but then again revisiting our rice policy is the only way for our country to ensure food sufficiency while also     strengthening productivity and farm profitability on a sustainable basis.

   

 

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