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“The country is sufficient in rice,” a crop science professor asserts

by Napoleon Manegdeg

What crisis? Dr. Mendoza debunks DA pronouncements on the country's rice insufficiency.

“Importing rice to ensure food source for the Filipinos is not the correct response to the rice crisis. There is no rice crisis to talk about.” This was the gist of a discussion paper presented by Teodoro C. Mendoza, a professor of crop science at UPLB during the Food Security Policy Forum Series organized by the PRRM as part of its 59th anniversary celebration.

The Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Agricultural Statistics staff presented their computations in the rice policy forum, facilitated by PRRM President Gani Serrano (rightmost).

Prof. Mendoza based his study on data of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics [BAS] of the Philippine’s Department of Agriculture. He said that in 2001, the country’s per capita consumption [PCC] was pegged at 103 kilograms. But this went up to 128 kilograms in 2008. According to Mendoza, the increase in the figure was computed using the total population as consumption baseline, instead of using the number of population actually residing in the country and consuming rice. He pointed out that around 11 million Filipinos are living abroad and that there are 7.5 million Filipinos whose staple food is corn instead of rice. Using the PCC of 128 kg as reference, the National Food Authority [NFA] intensified the importation of rice from the Philippines’ Asian neighbors. And it over-imported for the last three years.

Rice importation harms the Filipino farmer. NFA, with its limited budget going to the payment of rice imports and with its warehouses full of imported rice, cannot accommodate local farmers’ palay produce. Farmers, therefore, are forced to sell their produce to traders and rice millers at a price lower than that of the government-subsidized NFA palay buying price.

On the losing side. Rice farmers stand to lose in an over-importation scenario.

Dr. Mendoza said that government should peg the country’s PCC at 103-110 kg. values, instead of the prevailing 120 kg used by DA as reference. The difference of 8 kilograms translates to 1.15 million metric tons of rice or 54 billion pesos at current prices. Where and how will the country’s agricultural sector produce this shortfall? He suggested policy reforms at the NFA and BAS aimed at correcting data inconsistencies and using more scientific and appropriate data analysis methods. The Supply Utilization Account [SUA] used by the BAS should only be one of several methods to compute the PCC and determine rice consumption requirements.

Roberto Verzola (third from right) of SRI-Pilipinas raises questions on the use of the SUA as a tool for determining rice self-sufficiency.

The forum was attended by representatives from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute-DOST, DA-BAS, National Irrigation Administration (NIA), DA Rice Program, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Rice Watch Action Network (RWAN), Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), Social Watch Philippines (SWP), SAKAHAN, and other agri-based civil society organizations.

Dr. Mendoza’s paper may be downloaded here: Download PDF

Related links: Heading Off a Food Crisis by Teodoro C. Mendoza, Philippine Daily Inquirer



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