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‘PHL must shoot for 95% rice sufficiency’

‘PHL must shoot for 95% rice sufficiency’

Mon Apr 15 2019


The Philippines should target a 95-percent rice self-sufficiency rate to ensure that it will have adequate supply of the staple and allow a “viable supply space” for cheap imports under the new trade regime, a former agriculture chief said.


Former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the government should not be contented with a 93-percent rice self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) as climate change is threatening the country’s farm productivity.


“Should we maintain that level and be complacent? No. We need that level to be better and improve the productivity of farmers and even reach 95 percent because of climate change,” Dar said in his speech during the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines-San Miguel Corp. seminar held in Baguio City on Saturday.


Dar said the country’s rice supply would be more stable at 95-percent SSR as it would have to source only 5 percent from the world market.


At present the Philippines purchases about 6 to 7 percent of its rice requirements from other countries. This is equivalent to 2 million metric tons to 2.5 MMT, according to Dar.


He also said it is time for the government to abandon its goal of attaining 100 percent rice SSR as it is “an unachievable and ambitious target.”


Dar said previous administrations have tried to achieve the feat “at all costs,” which have resulted in higher rice prices at times due to the high cost of  producing paddy.


The former agriculture chief, who is also president of nongovernment organization InangLupa Movement Inc., said the 95-percent rice SSR can be achieved in the remaining three years of the Duterte administration. He said this will be made possible by the P10-billion fund for the rice sector under the new rice trade liberalization law.


“Sustaining rice productivity while liberalizing the industry to allow more imports to have lower inflation is possible. They can go together,” he added.


Due to the expected influx of rice imports under the new trade regime, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will no longer pursue its 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.


Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol argued that the increase in imported rice supply will “depress” farm-gate prices and discourage farmers from planting the staple.


“It would be foolish for us to still target the 100-percent [self-sufficiency rate]. It will be foolish to continue encouraging our farmers to reach that goal when we know that cheap imported rice will be coming in,” Piñol said.


“We might just be contented with where we are right now, which is at 93 percent. The inflow of imported rice may affect prices and further dampen the buying price of palay,” he added.


The DA is targeting to produce 20 MMT this year, nearly 5 percent higher than the 19.06 MMT produced in 2018.



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