PH edges closer to rice self-sufficiency

February 14, 2018

PH edges closer to rice self-sufficiency

Published February 14, 2018, 10:00 PM
By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Manila Bulletin

The Philippines is set to import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice in June even if official data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) indicate that the country could soon attain self-sufficiency status in rice.

The DA yesterday dismissed for the nth time that the country is experiencing some sort of rice shortage, reiterating that production last year grew by 9.36 percent to 19.3 million MT, the highest rice production and annual growth since 1999.

Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) backed this up and said that oversupply, not rice shortage, should be the problem moving forward.

“We still stick to the 2020 target,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said when asked when the Philippines would finally be rice self-sufficient.

“All the three agencies [DA, PhilRice, IRRI] agreed that officially, the Philippines is 96 percent rice sufficient. The remaining 4 percent amount to about 400,000 MT,” he added.

NFA Council, the highest policy-making body panel that has a final say on importation, was recently forced to approve the request of National Food Authority (NFA) to use its standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to replenish its buffer stocks, which had recently gone down to its lowest monthy level in 10 years.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who chairs the NFA Council, said the importation, which will only be conducted to stabilize the rising price of commercial rice, will be done through an open tender scheme or government-to-private (G2P) for a more transparent bidding process.

The delivery of the imported rice will be in June, just a few a weeks before the lean season.

Meanwhile, the DA recently hold the “Valentine’s Day Bigas ng Masa TienDA” in front of the DA Central Office in Quezon City where commercial rice were being sold for only P38 per kilo.

This, according to Piñol,  will mark the start of a nationwide program which would directly connect rice farmers with consumers.

Regional Directors will be asked to initially allow farmers’ groups to use open spaces in the DA regional offices to serve as the outlets of their rice produce.

Eventually, Bigas ng Masa TienDA will be established in every town throughout the country to provide consumers with affordable freshly milled rice direct from the farms.

Farmers groups will also be assisted by the DA so that they will be in complete control of their farm operations — from plowing, planting, harvesting, milling, packaging and marketing.

“We will link up this program with the Land Bank of the Philippines, where I sit as member of the Board of Directors, so that farmers’ groups we will provided with a working capital so they could buy their members’ produce,” Piñol further said.

Tags: Department of Agriculture, International Rice Research Institute, National Food Authority, PH edges closer to rice self-sufficiency, Philippine Rice Research Institute, PhilRice, rice production, Secretary Emmanuel Piñol