Don’t abandon rice self-sufficiency bid–Alcala

The next administration should not give up the goal of making the country self-sufficient in rice due to the looming threat of a global food crisis, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the country should not be dependent on foreign farmers for its rice requirements.

“What if major rice exporters also get hit by El Niño, and the price of rice shoots up? We should look closely at our rice program, and find out if it’s appropriate to rely on importation,” Alcala told reporters on the sidelines of the 2015 Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awarding Ceremony.

Earlier, the International Rice Research Institute (Irri) said the threat of a global food crisis, similar to the one that happened in 2007 and 2008, is looming, as major rice exporters are also hit by El Niño.

“The current El Niño has resulted in lower harvests and irregular planting across several rice-producing countries. Combined with lower stocks in a few key countries, emerging patterns in regional and global grain supply threaten the repeat of the painful rice-price crisis in 2007 and  2008,” the Irri said.

Irri Social Science Division Head Samarendu Mohanty said the future of the rice market will ultimately depend on whether major rice-producing countries, especially India, will see good harvests during the main cropping season starting June.

The Philippines usually imports rice to plug the shortfall in local production to stabilize supply and prices.

To boost local output and make farmers competitive, Alcala said the “best course of action” is to provide support to producers.

He said the DA is already working on its 2017 budget proposal, where it has allotted a significant amount to boost the country’s paddy-rice production to 20 million metric tons (MMT).

For 2016, Alcala said rice output may register flat growth due to the onslaught of El Niño in major rice-producing areas in the country.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the Philippines produced 18.15 MMT of palay in 2015, 4.31 percent lower than the previous year’s output of 18.97 MMT.


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