Written by Charisma Love B Gado
From information to action.
The actions conveyed during the National Year of Rice (NYR) 2013, a campaign that aimed to help achieve rice self-sufficiency, are sustained this year through the Be RICEponsible campaign launched in March.
As an offshoot of NYR 2013, the Be RICEponsible campaign aims to promote the RICEponsibility of the Filipinos to the country and to their bodies for enough supply of rice and better health.
Supporting the declaration of 2013 as National Year of Rice, provinces in the country are institutionalizing the stipulation mentioned in the Proclamation No. 494 signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III late last year.
The Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija has committed itself to become a model for “RICEponsible” in practice and advocacy. In its move to be RICEponsible, the city calls on the farmers to use modern rice farming technologies and the public to reduce rice wastage, eat brown rice and other staples, and value the hard work of farmers.
Towns in Aklan, La Union, Bohol, and Ilocos Norte also passed the “half-rice cup” ordinance while the Quezon City council approved a resolution urging major fast-food chains and restaurants to include brown rice servings.
In Kalibo Aklan, Edwin Ramos of the province’s Philippine Information Agency said that students had benefitted from the ordinance as the half-cup order of rice gives them a savings of P25 a week.
“Before the ordinance, students here are forced to buy the whole cup of rice. As lunch is always a busy time, sellers wrapped a cup of rice so they are easily handed out to the customers, giving the students without a choice. Now, students said that they use their saving from rice for research work in the Internet café,” he said.
Soviet Russia dela Cruz, Aklan provincial board member, said that the food industry welcomed the initiative because they “feel farmers’ hard work.”
“For a rice-producing province like us, protecting the farmers and valuing rice go in our moral fiber. Not recognizing the producers’ efforts and wasting rice are disrespect to the farmers,” dela Cruz said.
Reaping the farmers’ hard work
Recently, Department of Agriculture Sec. Proceso J. Alcala lauded the farmers for achieving the highest rice harvest in the Philippines. Despite strong typhoons that ravaged agricultural lands last year, Alcala said that the farmers had produced 18.44 million metric tons of rice, enlisting the Philippines as the fastest growing rice-producing country in Asia.
The Philippines, which achieved 97-percent rice self-sufficiency last year, registered a 4.04-percent average change improvement in milled rice production from 2010-2013.
Data from the World Market and Trade of the US Department of Agriculture showed that from 9.77 million metric tons of milled rice recorded in 2011, production increased to 10.99 million metric tons last year.
With the produce, the Philippines surpassed major rice exporters including China and India, which showed an improvement of 1.55 and 3.77 percent, respectively. Thailand, a leading rice exporter, only posted a 0.39-percent change difference in milled rice production.
To improve on the achievement, the agriculture secretary urged the public to continue doing their role for the country to have enough supply of rice.
In a survey conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, the per capita consumption of rice by Filipinos had increased to 119.08 kg per year from 105.71 kg in 2000, 109 kg in 2005, and 115 kg in 2005.
Compared to the rice consumers of neighboring countries, the Filipinos are eating more rice. Based on studies, South Korea’s per capita rice consumption per year in 2006 was 78.8 kg; Japan, 61 kg; and Taiwan, 48 kg.
With this rice consumption data, the Food and Nutrition Institute revealed that Filipinos had imbalanced diet with plate half-full of rice, consuming more rice than what is recommended as healthy.
“Filipinos depend mostly on rice for energy and eat rice more than what is recommended,” Joy Bartolome Duldulao, a chemist based at Philippine Rice Research Institute said.
Duldulao said that Filipinos are eating more rice than other food groups such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins, when rice and other grains should only be ¼ of the meal plate. Cutting down on too much carbohydrates from rice, he said, can help lessen the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
To be healthy, Be RICEponsible campaign encourages the public to diversify their diet by trying other sources of carbohydrates such as corn, cassava, and sweet potato. A cup of rice could be substituted with 1/3 cup of corn; 2/3 cup, cassava; and 5/6 cup, sweet potato.
Eating unpolished or brown rice is also healthy option for Filipinos as including it in the diet may reduce cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, heart diseases, hypercholesterolemia, and stroke. Brown rice is also important in attaining rice self-sufficiency because eating brown rice 36 meals a year can reduce rice importation by an average of 50,000mt/yr because of its higher milling recovery.
As Filipinos eat too much rice, ironically, they also waste more rice. Statistics show that each Filipino wastes 2 tablespoons of cooked rice every day. When not wasted, this could result in import savings as high as P6.2 billion and could feed 2.6 million hungry Filipinos in a year.
While farmers do their best in producing enough rice for the country, let us help them by eating other rice staples and brown rice and by not wasting not a single rice grain. In the end, we will not be only helping the country, but will also be improving our health.