The Aquino administration is bent on foisting the propaganda that the Philippines will attain rice self-sufficiency this year, after years of importing the staple from nearby Asian countries. Yet, the government officially announced the Philippines will import 187,000 metric tons this year as buffer stock for the lean months.
The Aquino administration apparently has redefined the meaning of self-sufficiency to suit its own political agenda amid the campaign season. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala did just that and appealed to the media not to “equate rice sufficiency with zero imports.”
“The government is on-track in its goal of self-sufficiency in rice by 2013,” Alacala insisted. “This year, all our efforts are geared towards increasing our 2012 palay production of about 18 million metric tons by 2 million more, to achieve our goal in the food staples sufficiency program.”
Imports, Alcala says, serve as buffer stock, in case the country is not able to produce rice in the lean season, or in between the dry and the wet seasons, and in extreme weather conditions “In between the dry and wet seasons, we have a gap in production and it is during these times when we need the buffer stock, since this is also the time when typhoons periodically visit the country,” he explains.
Alcala may go to a great extent in convincing critics that the Philippines is close to nearing self-sufficiency in rice production. However, as long as the Philippines fails to fill in the buffer or reserves needed to meet the demand during the lean season with local production, the nation will remain an importer and cannot consider itself self-sufficient in rice.
The government, in the meantime, should find ways to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, spoilage by building modern warehouses at the doorstep of farmers. It should build more irrigation systems to increase farmers’ production and bolster the palay support prices to protect farmers from greedy traders.
The Aquino administration must also take its agricultural goal to another level—make the Philippines a major rice exporter. Thailand and Vietnam have achieved the feat. Doing so on the part of the Philippines will erase doubts on its claim of self-sufficiency.