With the country’s lack of proper irrigation system and access to high-yielding seeds and machineries which deliberately affect rice production, the vision of a rice-sufficient Philippines still remains unclear.
Roehlano M. Briones, senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), disclosed that at the the rate the previous and current government have invested and continue to invest to boost rice production, it would probably take many years before the Philippines become fully sufficient in the rice sector.
“We are still far from being rice-sufficient because we still have to import rice to make up for our lack of ability to produce what our country needs,” Briones told Daily Tribune.
“As for now, we have to import rice. Our rice sector needs improvement,” he noted.
Since rice is a staple food to most of Filipinos, it has become a highly political crop used as measurement for food sufficiency.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the average per capita consumption stands at 110 kilograms per year.
The state-run statistic body also noted that the present population is projected to grow to 128 million by 2030 and 142 million by 2040 based on medium scale assumptions.
This means that the country would also need to ramp up its capability to produce more rice by 2040.
To recall, it was in 2017 when the Philippines met the 93 percent of its total rice requirement. It was the highest rice-sufficiency level the country ever reached.
“We are still (7 percent) deficient before it can achieve a full sufficiency in our rice supply. Where do we source this? We have to import it,” Briones said.
Briones added that the deficiency prompted the government to create programs to address the food gap and address socio-political stability.
Last February, the government has given the go-signal to authorize the unrestricted import of rice through the enactment of the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.
According to Briones, the government needs to ramp up its investment in the agriculture sector if it wants to fill in the current rice supply deficiency.
He said industrializing the value chain of every agricultural commodity necessitates the active leadership to be provided by involved leading bureaus and attached agencies.
Also, he reiterated the government must also provide more investments on income- and market-oriented agricultural research for development as well as allot sufficient and necessary funds for the sector.
In a previous interview, Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar said among the major factors that contribute to the country’s rice deficiency is the lack of a proper irrigation system.
“We have about a million hectare that needs national irrigation system development. Even if there are current irrigation systems in the country, it can only supply 50 percent of the country’s total farmland,” he said.
He proposed that government ramps up the construction and development of the national irrigation system. He also suggested a “Build Build Build” approach in boosting the agriculture sector.
The Philippines has about 3.9 million hectares of farmland but only 1.2 million is effectively irrigated.
To arrest the anemic growth of the food sector, Dar also recently said that he will push for the adaption of a balanced fertilization strategy.
“I am not against organic agriculture, but if we want to increase the level of productivity and income of farmers, we need to promote balanced fertilization,” Dar said, noting that it is important to use a combination of organic and inorganic fertilizer prudently.