By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has resurrected its rice self-sufficiency target three months after Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Philippine government prefers to measure the country’s rice adequacy level amid a liberalized regime.
In a statement, Dar said that amid the tightening global food supply due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, his agency is now bent to raise the country’s rice sufficiency level from 87 percent to 93 percent by the end of this year.
To recall, it was just in January when Dar said the country will no longer mea¬sure the country’s rice self-sufficiency status and will instead refer to it as rice adequacy level.
“We should be technically using [the term] rice adequacy level. We don’t want to be misunderstood,” Dar said in an earlier interview.
During the time of former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the Philippines was still aiming for a nearly 100 percent rice self-sufficiency status, a scenario where the country no longer has to import.
But with Rice Tariffication Law, which allowed the unimpeded rice importation, the government already abandoned such dream, with even Piñol saying that having a 100 percent rice self-sufficiency status “no longer makes sense.”
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that Philippines’ rice self-sufficiency went down to 86.17 percent in 2018, lower than the country’s 93.4 percent rice self-sufficiency status in the previous year.
This, while the country is getting more and more dependent on imported rice. In fact, the Philippines’ import dependency ratio (IDR) for rice increased to 13.83 percent in 2018 from its 2017 ratio of 6.56 percent. This indicates that 13.83 percent of the country’s supply of rice came from imports.
“Given an additional budget, we will be able to produce more rice, thereby increasing our sufficiency from the present level of 87 percent to 93 percent,” Dar said on Thursday.
“We have requested an additional ₱8.5 billion for a rice resiliency project, that is part of a ₱31-billion supplemental budget to bankroll our Plant, Plant, Plant Program or Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Covid-19 program,” he added.