Lowering the Price of Local Rice

Yes we can!
By Leonor Magtolis Briones
The Business of Governance
Views & Analysis - ABS-CBN Online

Produce the rice we need without importing from abroad, that is. These are bold words coming from former UP President Emilio Q. Javier, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, leading scientist on plant breeding, and former senior official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He IS also former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology.

One view which has emerged out of the debates on rice is the contention that the Philippines cannot produce all the rice that it needs. This is due to our geographical characteristics, climate which is prone to typhoons, accelerated conversion of rice land to other purposes, and so on. Importation of rice is inevitable, advocates of rice importation say.

Not so, says Javier, who spearheaded Philippine Agriculture 2020, the long term plan for sustainable agriculture. In the Philippines, the current yield per hectare is 3.2 tons. In Thailand, it is 2.8 tons per hectare. Javier points out that the latter has more land devoted to agriculture and fewer Thais to feed.

The Philippines is already producing 90% of its rice requirements. There is no reason why the Philippines can’t cover the 10% deficit with sufficient financing, modern technology and good governance.

At present, only 30% of irrigable areas are actually irrigated. Javier emphasizes that the government strategy should be to invest in irrigation systems. Less hectares will be needed for rice as long as the country has well managed, irrigated farm lands.

As for rainfed, low rice yielding farms, these should be switched to other food crops like corn which is eaten by large numbers of Filipinos from the Visayas and Mindanao. Javier proposes that the UP Los Banos Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB), Central Mindanao University and University of Southern Mindanao be given substantial research funds for research on white corn.

The challenge is also to produce sufficient corn for Filipinos who prefer it.

Yes, we can do it, says Javier. Government must invest in repairing damaged irrigation systems, as well as in building new ones, pour research funds into the development of high yielding varieties of white corn, send out extension workers to help farmers, and make credit available for other inputs.

For once, government has to give agriculture the attention that it deserves. I once wrote that the Philippines has been importing rice since 1901. Javier says that we imported rice also during the Spanish period. It is time to change history. [...]

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Why not subsidize local millers instead of rice imports?
By Dodolfo Plopino
Letter to the Editor - Philippine Daily Inquirer

Reading two articles in the Inquirer’s April 19 issue, “GMA job on the line” and “Planting rice is never fun,” made me wonder whether the billions of pesos the government has budgeted to respond to the rice crisis would be put to good use.

Please allow me to put forward some food for thought for Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and other policymakers. Why will the National Food Authority subsidize the 2.1 million metric tons of imported rice by P21.75 for every kilo in order to bring down the selling price to P18.25 from the purchase price of P40 per kilo? Why would the government not just use this subsidy to support the rice millers of Nueva Ecija whose breakeven price is P31.39?

By subsidizing rice millers, the NFA would just need to shell out P13.14 per kilo instead of P21.75 to bring down the selling price to P18.25. This translates into a savings of P17.3 billion for 2.1 million metric tons. Added to this, local rice production would be given a boost making the country less dependent on imports and thereby, less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the international market. [...]

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