By Ellson Quismorio
The current dry spell in several provinces caused by El Niño should open the government’s eyes to the terrible idea that is all-out rice importation, Butil Party-list Rep. Cecil Chavez said Friday.
According to her, a hypothetical drought in the world’s top rice-producing countries could wipe out the global rice surplus overnight and plunge the rice-consuming countries such as the Philippines into a mad scramble for rice stocks amid skyrocketing prices.
“If there is a lesson that could be learned from the current Philippine drought, it is the untenability of anchoring the rice and food security needs of our country on importation,” Chavez said.
Chavez warned that a drought on the rice farms of China and India, the world’s top rice producers, is enough to radically bring down global rice production and instantly wipe out the 50 million metric tons of rice surplus that is traded on the global market.
If rice production in these two countries falter, no amount of bountiful yields from Vietnam, Thailand and Bangladesh could offset the resulting production loss. “Nothing can stabilize the global rice supply,” she claimed.
The pro-small farmer lawmaker said the global rice surplus of about 50 million metric tons is enough during normal times but this could easily disappear once China or India – known for their huge populations – ramp up their rice importation.
China, despite its record as the top rice producer, imports rice regularly, around six million metric tons annually, Chavez noted.
The drop in the volume of globally traded rice would bring a worst-case scenario to the Philippines, which has abandoned the pursuit of rice self-sufficiency in favor of unlimited rice importation, she said.
Rice self-sufficiency achievable
Chavez said that in 2008, the Philippines imported more than two million metric tons of rice to offset the drought-induced short supply, a world record. If that scenario will take place in either China and or India, there surely will be panic and confusion in the rice-consuming countries, she said.
Chavez said there is no alternative to rice self-sufficiency, which the Philippine government can pursue on the basis on moderate costs and sound economics.
“If the Philippine government will just give half of the support that the governments of Vietnam and Thailand currently give to their rice farmers, we will be on our road to rice self-sufficiency,” she said.
The lady solon said that the basis of the policy to end the quantitative restriction on rice imports and open up the country to unlimited rice importation was based on “voodoo economics” and was peddled by the economic managers of the Duterte administration.
Chavez has asked for a reset on the policy as well as the pursuit of the more tenable and stable option of producing rice that is enough for national requirements.