MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Agriculture on Thursday insisted the government was on track to achieve its target of rice self-sufficiency this year, and appealed to news media not to equate the concept of rice self-sufficiency with zero importation of rice.
“The government is on-track in its goal of self-sufficiency in rice by 2013,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said in a statement.
He said the government’s planned importation of 187,000 metric tons this year as buffer stock was only “for the lean months,” and should not be interpreted as not being able to meet the government’s rice self-sufficiency target.
“This year, all our efforts are geared toward increasing our 2012 palay production of about 18 million metric tons by two million more, to achieve our goal in the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP),” he said.
“The FSSP defines self-sufficiency as the country’s ability to meet its national food requirements, while maintaining a buffer stock to be used in times of need. We are working to meet our per capita consumption of about 115 kilograms per person per year, given our population of about 99 million Filipinos,” Alcala said.
He emphasized that the government has drastically reduced its rice imports from a high of 2.4 million metric tons in 2010, to 860,000 tons in 2011, and 500,000 last year.
“This means that our efforts toward self-sufficiency and reducing rice imports are gaining ground,” Alcala said. “Of course all our targets would have to be dependent on weather conditions, especially since climate change is upon us, and weather and climate play an indispensable role in rice farming,” he added.
As to why his department qualifies its self-sufficiency target as “by the end of 2013,” Alcala said that since the country’s rice production is generally divided as dry season and wet season, only 40 percent of the total production is harvested during the dry season, and the rest is harvested during the wet season, which ends in November or December.
“Our performance in the wet season is recorded only in the first few months of the following year. In between the dry and wet seasons, we have a gap in production and it is during these times when we need the buffer stock, since this is also the time when typhoons periodically visit the country,” he explained.
This year, the country’s volume of rice importation would serve the purpose of buffer stock, in case the country is not able to produce rice because of extreme weather conditions in between the dry and the wet seasons, he said.
“I have always clarified that once we achieve rice self-sufficiency by the end of 2013, we may not be able to do away with provisions of our international agreements that require us to allow rice from other countries to enter our borders, like those under the World Trade Organization and the Association of South East Asian Nations,” Alcala said.
“In the same manner, we are already preparing to balance the situation this early by targeting exports of premium quality and organic rice, which comparatively fetch higher prices in the international market than ordinary rice entering our country,” Alcala said.
Assistant Secretary and National Rice Program Coordinator Dante S. Delima said that the country has in fact been self-sufficient in rice for food “as early as last year.”
“Based on current data of palay production, and assuming a 90-day buffer stock, our calculations that consider the updated population figures of the National Statistics Office, and the unofficial per capita rice consumption figures derived from the Food Demand Survey of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, we are already self-sufficient in rice for food,” he said.
“According to our studies, the high production last year, and a low consumption of about 113 kilograms of rice per person per year results in the production of 11.75 MT of milled rice to meet the needs of the 97.61 million population at that time,” Delima said. “For this year, the 20 million metric tons of paddy will translate to 13.03 MT of milled rice to meet the 11.23 MT needed to feed the population, plus reasonable margins for seeds, processing, feeds, and wastes, plus a 3.47 MMT ending stock good for 100 days,” he added.