Food production should be national priority
Since 2015 when our population was 101 million, our rice production has not sufficiently coped with the demand for a rice-dependent population. Growing at 1.4-1.5 percent average yearly and estimated at 115 million by the end of 2023, there has not been any long-term government management strategy. The Commission on Population and Development as an oversight body has not been heard of on population management. Soon the other basic food products will join the price spiral with the demands of a burgeoning population that no one seems to be directly in charge of.
Perish the thought of bringing down to P40 the price per kilo of rice—that’s not even the core problem. We have been one of the biggest importers of rice for many years at close to four trillion metric tons yearly, sourced mostly from Vietnam and some from Thailand, because our production falls short of our need, including having the stock reserve for replanting and stop-gap supply on emergencies. Supply is the core problem we must squarely face.
Former agrarian secretary William Dar said in 2021 that they “will continuously implement programs to sustain the good performance of the local rice industry … targeting 20.48 million MT that will be supported by the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which will include programs like promotion of inbred rice production and hybrid seeds, loan facilities, and training for farmers.” So, why aren’t we producing the 20 million MT yet?
Crisis after crisis has since plagued the agriculture industry: dry weather, and, ironically, floods in unlikely places during harvest time, lack of transport and milling facilities, failed seedling dispersal programs, loss of farmland to housing subdivisions by greedy developers, etc. There’s neither nothing new in all these lapses nor excuses. In fact, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has substantial funds from its 2023 budget unspent as of Oct. 31, according to the Department of Budget and Management.
What is difficult for ordinary folks like us to understand is why hasn’t the DA been on the road to producing a sufficient supply of rice, pork, chicken, and the other basic food items we can’t live without, minimizing the crisis; and meanwhile, import if we must, to bridge the gap in requirements?
Why can’t Congress likewise put an end to the budget charade and put to optimal use for the general good the billions of confidential and intelligence funds for our food production?
Marvel K. Tan,