Press Release
April 6, 2018

New rice strategy must 'plant for the future'

As there seems to be an unli-rice-loving gene in our DNA, we Pinoys consume an average 108 kilos each yearly.

While producing rice is a problem, producing babies is not. Our population grows by 1.66 million a year.

By 2028, our population would have increased by 16.43 million from what it is today, or from 106.48 million to 122.92 million.

More mouths to feed means more rice to produce. This population growth of 16.43 million requires us to boost our annual domestic rice stock by 1.772 million tons by 2028. This is our ten-year agricultural challenge.

If we have to meter it, then based on our current birth rate, we must increase our rice production by 3.47 metric tons every 10 minutes.

The above assumes that the Pinoys' appetite for rice remains constant and not reduced by instant noodles or by the Keto diet.

Boosting rice production - or any substitute staple like camote, vegetables, corn - requires state money. For example, because rice cannot be grown without water - it takes 1,000 liters of water to produce a kilo of rice - we need to expand our irrigation footprint.

One study says the country should develop 1.496 million hectares of "irrigable" farmland by 2028 to meet our food security requirements. Estimated cost is P524 billion.

Thus, whatever rice policy the government adopts, whatever agency it disbands or creates, whatever strategy it pursues, must take a long-term view, one that is cost-effective, pro-consumer and farmer-empowering.

The latter is needed because for all the back-breaking work of a rice farmer, the national net income per hectare on the average is P23,559. Kahit tatlong anihan, below the poverty line pa rin.

This administration cannot adopt a program that is coterminous with its term, one that expires by 2022. Its vision should not be myopic, but strategic, otherwise this problem on rice becomes a seasonal challenge that will be addressed by band-aid cures.

Wala sa NFA lahat ng solusyon, nasa produksyon at isang policy ng wastong rice tarrification.

In short, the policy direction of the new rice team involves "planting for the future."

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