Review food sufficiency strategy now


Philippine Daily Inquirer

28 April 2010


THE NEWS ITEM TITLED “Government says yield is up, but where is the rice?” (Inquirer, 4/7/10) raised serious questions on the country’s capacity to produce enough food for the people and take care of the farmers and their families who are dependent on this staple crop.

Our group, Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) seeks to clarify the Department of Agriculture’s claims that rice production has been rising since President Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001. Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) Rice Program’s Frisco M. Malabanan and Emerson Yago failed to cite the fact that government has consistently failed in its self-sufficiency bid year after year even before the country was struck by “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” last year. Before these two disasters, in a meeting of the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC) Cereals Committee, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) projected a lower production rate of 17.4 million metric tons for 2009.

With 16.3 million metric tons in actual production, the sufficiency level for 2009 was down to 81 percent, a sharp drop from the 89-percent sufficiency level targeted for the year, this despite a phenomenal increase in the DA’s budget for rice.

According to government figures, the 2009 budget for the DA’s rice program was P9.4 billion. The budget for infrastructure was more than P17 billion, with irrigation getting the biggest chunk.

The DA’s original rice sufficiency plan placed the budgetary requirement for 2009 at P15 billion, more than P4 billion of which was for irrigation. At the very least, the government could have spent the additional appropriation for climate-proof rice production and minimize the impact of typhoons and other weather disturbances on farmers’ crops and income.

For 2010, the DA has set to increase palay production to 17.4 million metric tons. This is way below the original target of 18.6 million metric tons as indicated in the government’s rice sufficiency targets from 2009-2013. However, the agency is not announcing any plan to adjust the rice sufficiency deadline. It will be difficult for the DA to move its target as the government has espoused the rice sufficiency call since 2004. But until now, the DA has not made significant progress in lowering the yield gap.

While weather is really a persistent challenge, blaming the weather as the usual culprit will eventually reach its saturation point and will become unacceptable and ridiculous. The main issues now are the DA’s ability to efficiently use its budget to meet its targets, come up with the most appropriate interventions given the old and emerging challenges facing the agriculture sector, and address its capacity to implement projects given the current institutional set-up including the devolved nature of agriculture services.

It’s important to take stock now and see what really works while the industry remains protected from trade liberalization until 2012. There’s no other more opportune time than now.

Secretariat-coordinator, Rice Watch and Action Network (R1),
40 Matulungin St., Brgy. Central District,
Diliman, Quezon City














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