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Rice forums inform policies for country’s rice self-sufficiency

Amid the confidence of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in achieving rice self-sufficiency by 2013, critics continue to cast their doubts on the country’s capacity to hit this target. In an effort to alleviate these fears and inform government policies on how the country can be rice sufficient without having to import again, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) has organized series of rice forums, kicking off last June and running until the end of this year.

In June, the first forum of the series focused on the demand or consumption side of rice, particularly on the rice per capita consumption (PCC) and the national rice requirement serving as the basis for the country’s rice importation strategy. The forum tried to arrive at a consensus on whether the rice PCC estimated using the supply utilization account (SUA) is correct. Claimed to be an internationally accepted method of estimating PCC through the SUA data, there are arguments that the computation using this method resulted in the over importation of rice in the past, making the Philippines the biggest rice importing country in the world at one point.

Building on the first, discussions during the second rice forum held in July came to an understanding of the country’s reference baseline on the supply or production side. Questions on whether the country could really be rice self-sufficient by 2013 were also raised, to which the Department of Agriculture responded with its food sufficiency program to include not only rice, but also corn, cassava, sweet potato and banana.

But how can we make our rice lands yield 4.4 tons per hectare, from a current average of 3.68 tons per hectare? How can we expand the irrigated areas while restoring and maintaining the capacity of currently irrigated areas?

For the next rice policy forum, presentations will focus on strategies to achieve the production target of 21.12 million metric tons by 2013. This third PRRM rice forum, “Increasing Rice Production towards Food Sufficiency”, will be held on September 9, from 1-5pm at the PRRM National Headquarters located at 56 Mother Ignacia Avenue cor Dr. Lazcano St, Brgy Paligsahan, Quezon City. Invited speakers include Dante de Lima (DA-Rice Program), Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr., (Philippine Rice Research Institute), Silvino Q. Tejada (DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management), Antonio S. Nangel (National Irrigation Administration), and Dr. Pompe Sta. Cruz (University of the Philippines Los Baños-Crop Science Cluster). Representatives from the government, executive, legislative and civil society are invited to participate in the forum.

For inquiries, call Divine Tapec at 3724989. For more information about PRRM, visit www.prrm.org.

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