SO THE Philippines is now the biggest rice importer in the world – bigger than China which has many more mouths to feed at two billion people, way bigger than the Philippines’ 100 million population. How did it come to this?
It’s embarrassing really. We’re a rice-producing country but we’re importing rice. We do not have enough stocks. Domestic supplies are low and can only be augmented by importation.
What this tells us is that there is a need for strengthened support for farmers to increase the country’s rice productivity. This low rice productivity explains why the public continues to be burdened with unstable rice prices.
This is alarming because it goes beyond just the issue of rice self-sufficiency. It has become a food security concern. If domestic production cannot meet demand, prices will naturally increase and this may lead to widespread hunger if unabated.
This supply gap has been going on for decades. To address this and stabilize prices or possibly lower them, administrations after administrations have been importing rice. But is this scheme sustainable?
Previous policy recommendations have consistently maintained, however, that importations should be done by the private sector and not the National Food Authority (NFA) supposedly because of the corruption associated with these transactions. During the Aquino administration, there were allegations that the Department of Agriculture-NFA’s importations were overpriced.
To increase productivity in the countryside and provide better livelihood opportunities for our farmers, the government should spend more for agriculture development programs.