Rice import statistics tell all
From 2008 to mid-2010, the Philippines consistently paid for rice imports way beyond international quotes. Reckoned against our currency, for every P1,000 that other clients paid for the staple, we spent P270 more for the same quantity. That’s a lot of cups of steaming, brewed Batangas barako to keep farmers sleepless.
In April 2011 the playing field was even—we bought rice for the same price as—if not lower than—that charged other buyers. But this fact was a given and no longer merited a word on President Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address.
From the “At A Glance” on the Sona (Inquirer, 7/26/11): importation of rice cut; shortage of 2.3 million metric tons down to 660,000. Why?
Let us volunteer an explanation. We are eating less rice, as reported by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS)—a reduction that translates to 1.5 million tons less in annual consumption (reference: 2008, when imports reached 2.45 million tons).
What is the scorecard based on “textbook” observation? Indonesia, self-sufficient for years, is importing a limited quantity, for buffer only. With production about 3.5 times the Philippines’ all-time high (in 2008), but with its acreage only 2.7 times bigger, Indonesia has gone a long way with its production of five tons per hectare, against our best of 3.77 tons.
Vietnam is blessed by the flowing Mekong River Delta. With the aggregate size of its rice farms only 61 percent of Indonesia’s, Vietnam’s annual harvest is 70 percent of Indonesia’s output. Vietnam’s productivity is a dream with 120 cavans, even reaching 138 cavans during spring.
The Philippines’ capability should not be undermined. Farmers ought to be supported sensibly. Its productivity of 3.77 tons (84 cavans) per hectare (based on 2008 figures), a modest improvement from 2002 levels, dwarfs Thailand’s yield by 22 cavans! Thailand’s annual harvests exceed ours by 14 million tons only because it has 7 million more than the Philippines’ 4.35 million hectares of rice farms, as of 2010. Raise ours to 5.5 million hectares on existing yields, and we are on our way!
Are we poised for takeoff? The latest word is, total harvest in the first half of 2011 breached the previous high of 7.36 million tons in 2009 and, weather permitting, the Philippines this year will break, if not come within reach of, the elusive annual target of 17 million tons. The higher first-half production translates to a year-long rice supply for 5.7 million Filipinos.
Indonesia’s yield appears to have peaked. Raising our productivity to 4.5 tons per hectare, on the present acreage of rice lands, is attainable and good enough to ensure self-sufficiency. But with one caution: insulate funds for farm inputs and irrigation from “wangwang.” And we’re there!
—MANUEL Q. BONDAD,
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