PHL rice self-sufficiency: An attainable goal?
by Shaira Panela
VS/HS, GMA News
Sept. 4, 2012
Farmers and non-government organizations criticized Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) for advising the Philippine government to import rice in lieu of pursuing self-sufficiency.
ADB Practical Leader in Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development Lourdes Adriano wasquoted in an Aug. 30 report as saying, “There [is] no historical data that will support this claim. It is not possible to attain sufficiency next year, not even in the near future. Not in your or my lifetime.”
National Rice Farmers Council (NRFC) and Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) believe that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala made the right decision in sticking to the self-sufficiency program.
“We find this analysis of Lourdes Adriano of the ADB short-sighted and very treacherous for small and poor Filipino farmers, particularly because she is a fellow Filipino,” said NRFC spokesperson Jaime Tadeo in a statement Monday.
“Let us remind Adriano and the ADB that our rice exporter neighbors strived for rice self-sufficiency, and developed their local rice industry first before they reached their current status,” Tadeo added.
R1 convenor Aurora Regalado said, “We can see the ADB setting the stage for the plan to form a regional rice cartel in the region with the ambitious goal to boost rice prices by ten percent annually.
“Putting our staple food dependent on the vagaries of global rice market is like putting our children’s food on the table at the mercy of vultures in a wasteland,” Regalado noted.
“Food is and can be a political weapon,” she added.
“US Rice Outlook” of the US Department of Agriculture noted that rice prices increased in the past month – partly on stronger prices of other grains.
R1 also found Adriano’s recommendation ironic as the recently held Ramon Magsaysay Awards recognized Cambodian Yang Saing Koma, an advocate of rice technology System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
Cambodian farmers benefited from SRI, and helped Phnom Penh develop a national rice industry.
Ramon Magsaysay Foundation also recognized Filipino agriculture scientist Dr. Romulo Davide for helping farmers increase production by being their own scientists.
On the other hand, Oxfam, an international non-profit organization campaigning against poverty and injustice, said adopting Adriano’s proposition is dangerous due to risks posed by climate change on food production.
Kala Constantino, Oxfam’s Advocacy, Campaigns and Communications coordinator in the Philippines said in a separate statement, "Climate change imposes serious risks to farming communities.
“For every one degree Celsius increase in temperature, rice yields are expected to drop by ten percent,” Constantino added.
“[T]argeting self-sufficiency in rice should definitely be one among many adaptation measures that the country should take,” Constantino noted, saying, “This will require significant investment, but at the same time, it will also build the country's resilience…"
R1 said that more than two million Filipino farmers and their families depend on rice crops for their livelihood. Rice importation poses a risk on the livelihood of these farmers.
“It is reassuring to note that Secretary Alcala is still gunning for the local rice self-sufficiency program despite pressures from neo-liberal, market-oriented mindsets, that put premium to abstract figures rather than the real people who will be devastated by these abstractions,” Regalado said.
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