Aiming for 100% rice self-sufficiency now ‘foolish,’ says Piñol
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is not anymore set on making the country rice self-sufficient following the passage of the Rice Import Liberalization Act, a measure allowing the unimpeded entry of imported rice.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who has promised that the country could produce enough rice for its own needs by 2020 with the help of free irrigation and other measures, said the agency would have to settle with the country’s current rice self-sufficiency rate at 93 percent.
“We will have to review our rice sufficiency target,” he said in an interview with reporters. “We just have to be content with 93 percent because the inflow of imported rice may affect prices of rice in the market and further dampen the buying price of palay.”
Last year, President Duterte has also conceded that the country won’t achieve a 100 percent rice self-sufficiency rate during his term despite his promise during the presidential elections in 2016.
While the Philippines remains one of the world’s top producers of rice, it was never able to keep up with the rice requirement of its growing population.
The farm-gate price of palay has been falling since the start of the year, and industry stakeholders are expecting the trend to continue. As of the first week of February, the average farm-gate price of palay was at P19.70 a kilogram.
In provinces where rice production is minimal, farm-gate price is already between P14 and P16 a kilo.
The Rice Import Liberalization Act, set for implementation on March 5, could open the floodgates for imported rice, which is more affordable compared to locally produced rice.
Economic managers are expecting the measure will help ease the country’s inflation rate, bring down the cost of rice and generate revenues from import duties.
Piñol said encouraging farmers to aim for a 100-percent rice self-sufficiency rate was “foolish,” since a supply glut in the market would further bring down farm-gate prices to the detriment of the local farming industry.
Nonetheless, DA is still aiming to increase the country’s rice production to a record 20 million metric tons this year from 19.06 million MT last year.
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