Editorial: Rice sufficiency

Rice is our staple food and is therefore a gut issue felt by the rich who can buy high quality commercial rice and the poor, who line up to buy a few kilos of cheap NFA rice. Even if people say we should start looking for an alternative to rice, majority would rather buy rice, bukbok and all.

Last Monday National Food Authority regional director Lester Romeo E. Malana assured consumers the region has sufficient rice supply until December with at least 328,000 bags of rice as buffer stock available for distribution and that NFA rice in the local markets is even above normal.
In August this year, Zamboanga reported a shortage of commercial rice supply due to the stoppage of imported “smuggled” rice shipment, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol. The Secretary said he will not tolerate rice smuggling which has been going on in the of Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi) areas in previous years.
There is indeed available commercial rice in the market but fears are rife that the price may slowly be getting out of reach for the ordinary Juan and Maria. Director Malana has already cautioned consumers not to panic buying as it will affect the market.
But then most of the average income earners do not really have the cash to hoard rice on top of the rising cost of basic goods and food.
A Mindanews report quoted National Economic Development Authority 11 director Maria Lourdes Lim to have said rice production increased by 17.6 percent or 232,137 MT in the first semester of 2018 compared to 197,348 MT in the same period last year but this could only supply 47 percent of the total rice requirement in the region and in Sarangani province and General Santos City.
We have to admit that we are not rice sufficient and have to depend on imports to fill our warehouses and feed our people. The problems that we encounter in rice agriculture have not diminished over the years, rather, it has worsened with the rapid conversion of agricultural land to residential, industrial and commercial not to mention the impact of climate change.
Importation is a short term solution to rice sufficiency. The government has to fast track support by way of infrastructure, research and development support to the agricultural sector for us to achieve rice sufficiency in the coming years.

Posted in Opinion