THE PRICES of food, including rice, bread, meat, fish and poultry are all going up because of myriad problems, including low production, inefficient farm management systems, lack of processing industries and lack of transportation facilities to move the products from rural to urban areas.
To ensure enough supply and temper the rising prices of rice, the government’s economic managers pushed for importation of the staple food. Indeed, putting rice on the table is what matters to the public. A few months ago, Western Visayas received its share of imported rice.
The public’s anxiety is not hard to understand. It stems from the fact that the country’s agriculture sector has always been historically weak. And it is weak because it has not received the full support of government after government.
While we cannot compete with other better-endowed lands in Southeast Asia like Thailand and Vietnam, we should at least aim to drop the reputation of being the top rice importer. We should involve the farmers in buffer stocking rice and improve assistance to them by systematizing the extension system in agriculture and fisheries. As we understand it, there are safety nets that the government has instituted from way back. The budget for agriculture and fisheries has increased since the first year of the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernizations Act of 1997. We have to focus our assistance to the farmers and fisherfolk.
The Philippines can be food-secure provided the government institutes a no-nonsense program for the modernization of agricultural and fisheries production. It is unacceptable that our country should be considered the biggest importer of rice in the entire world.
The only way to assuage public fears of a food crisis is to strengthen food production. And food production can only be strengthened if the agriculture sector is strengthened. In short, there must be a sustained national effort to attain self-sufficiency in food. It is a great shame that we Filipinos who reside in a fertile country should be food-deprived.