Ditch rice policy, gov’t urged
The government’s policy on rice continues to be stuck on self-sufficiency and a conflicted practice on importation despite recommendations from local economic experts from the government, private sector and the academe as well as international bodies to ditch what is described as “not practical.”
“Rice self-sufficiency is neither a desirable nor a practical objective for the Philippines, which is an archipelagic country,” the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) said in a statement.
The FEF—whose members include former and present Cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries, leading figures in the academe and prominent members in the business and finance community—noted that the Philippines should instead rely on international trade to guarantee the country’s food security just as Malaysia and Singapore have done.
“Furthermore, we can forge a rice security pact with our fellow Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members such as Vietnam and Thailand to guarantee rice supply in case of a global shortage,” it added.
The FEF also disagreed with calls to disallow private-sector importation and let the National Food Authority (NFA) be the sole importer, or stopping all importation altogether.
“Stopping rice imports even during rice harvest season will put upward pressure on rice prices and lead to significant hikes in rice prices, worsening hunger and poverty in the country,” the FEF said.
“If the NFA will go on a government-to-government purchase of rice, then there will be no transparent and competitive bidding, which could lead to rampant graft and overprice,” it added.
Earlier this month, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said the Philippine government’s support to agriculture was best adjusted away from efforts to attain food self-sufficiency, particularly in rice, toward measures that strengthen productivity and farm profitability on a sustainable basis.
The OECD’s report titled “Agricultural Policies in the Philippines” found that, in the Philippines, government support to agriculture was higher than in other countries in the region and the highest among all emerging countries that the OECD monitored. However, such support “often failed to meet policy objectives.”
“Refocusing this support away from specific commodities would encourage diversification toward higher value commodities, which would raise rural incomes and improve food security,” the OECD said.
Last month, state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Study (PIDS) said the Aquino administration’s approach to food self-sufficiency drove up food prices, noting that barriers to imports triggered increases in rice prices.
PIDS senior research fellow Roehlano Briones said the policy employed a two-pronged strategy of supporting domestic production and maintaining protectionist barriers that shielded local producers from foreign competition.
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