Scientist group AGHAM slams the Duterte government’s band aid solution to the rice crisis, saying that the problem will not be resolved under a liberalized rice industry.
In light of the rice shortage crisis, the President announced Thursday that it already gave the approval for the 250,000 MT standby rice imports. The said volume of rice imports, if approved by the National Food Authority Council will be on top of the 325,000 MT of imports under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) scheduled to arrive this month. However, the NFA’s remaining buffer stocks are only sufficient for three days.
“Rice importation will not resolve the chronic crisis of food insecurity because the global rice market is volatile. We are not assured of its availability and its price in the market,” explains Finesa Cosico, agriculturist and the secretary general of AGHAM.
Rice shortage has been a perennial problem since the 1970s. And with the entry of the Philippines to WTO in 1995 has opened up the country for rice imports, which has negatively impacted the local rice production. From the previous procurement of the National Food Authority, it only buys around 2-3% of the total palay produced nationwide while the rest of the rice supply comes from importation.
The 2016 data from the USDA shows that from 1990s to the late 2000s, the ratio is upward between rice importation vis a vis the national consumption, indicating the country’s reliance on imports to address the problem of food security.
“It is ironic that we are continually failing to become rice self-sufficient, but thousands of hectares of land are being used for high value export crops under transnational companies like Del Monte and Dole,” said Cosico.
R&D, genuine agrarian reform keys to success
Despite being an agricultural country, the level of local agricultural research and development has been very low with an intensity ratio of 0.13% of the Gross-Value Added in agriculture from 2003-2011, which is why we cannot compete with our neighboring countries.
The current land agrarian reform law has enabled the conversion of prime agricultural land to industrial purposes has also been a major hindrance to agricultural development. From 1988 to 2016 a total of 97,592.5 hectares of agricultural land has been converted, greatly decreasing food production areas in the country.
With a genuine agrarian reform law, local farmers will have decisive control over the agricultural production system to ensure that food production is in the context of food security and sufficiency. Aside from this, agrarian reform must be supported by concrete programs such as the improvement of farmlands, the mechanization of farming processes, agricultural research and extension, mobilization of agricultural scientists and establishments of farmer organizations and cooperatives. Only then can the Philippines be achieve food security and self sufficiency.
“Instead of relying on importation, the government should prioritize the development of the local rice industry. We currently lack a comprehensive national plan for the development, which is why the country continues to experience the perennial problem of food security. The government must also put an end to the country’s submission to the WTO that distorts agricultural policies,” she ended.#