The Department of Agriculture (DA) is eager to get rid of its pro-importation stance, but admitted that there's still a need to import food because local production is still not enough.
“We need to take care of our local commodity industry. Local production is the priority, and importation is a policy of last resort,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said during the opening program of the week-long World Food Day Celebration.
According to the agri chief, the country’s current food adequacy level is just at 80 percent overall.
For rice, in particular, the present rice adequacy level is at 86 percent, and the DA wants to grow this to 93 percent.
“Sustainability is key to producing enough. Although presently we know that in the Philippines, we can only afford to produce enough of the food we need. The rest have to be brought from other shores,” Dar said.
Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority data, from 2016 to 2019, the country’s local food production did not keep up with the growing population.
Thus, the need to import additional food to close the gap.
Right now, the DA is implementing a shift in its food systems policy, which is based on its New Food Security Framework.
The framework aims to increase the country's food sufficiency levels; focus on production-to-consumption value chain; harmonize the food systems with related sectors; address hunger and all forms of malnutrition; and adopt context-specific policies.
In August, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Executive Director Jayson Cainglet said that in contrast with DA's ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ program, which was a special mention during President Rodrigo Duterte's fifth State of the Nation Address, all the agency does right now is “plan, plan, plan” and “import, import, import”.
For rice alone, the Philippines is still currently the world's top rice importer.