Asking farmers to abandon planting rice a ‘death trap’
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Thursday rejected as a “death trap” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s opinion that local farmers should abandon planting rice and instead focus on high-value crops.
In a post on his Facebook page, Piñol said Diokno’s position was flawed because, among other things, rice-importing countries focused on securing their rice requirements first.
“It is as certain as the sun will rise tomorrow that 10 years from now, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and India will no longer be able to export the same volume of rice that they ship out today. They have to feed their growing population as well,” he said.
“The policy to just rely on imported rice and ask our rice farmers to diversify to other crops is a death trap. It is a shortsighted view which will kill the rice industry and drive away farmers from the rice fields,” he added.
Diokno, along with other economists, have said that the shift to planting “remunerative crops” will unleash the agriculture sector’s potential since these crops, when exported, can be more profitable than rice.
High-value crops include abaca, cacao, cassava, coffee, oil palm and rubber.
While Piñol is not against importing rice, he said that imports should only be allowed to fill the supply shortfall, not the country’s entire rice needs.
He said that with the worsening effects of climate change, rice-exporting countries, especially Vietnam and Thailand, where the Philippines source most of its imported rice, may suffer from harvest losses and cut their export volume to the detriment of nations that rely heavily on imported rice.
“Even if we have the money to buy, there would be no available rice supply in the world market. And assuming that there would be available supply, could we outbid China in buying all the remaining rice stocks?” Piñol said.
The Duterte administration originally intended to achieve self-sufficiency in rice within the first two years of the President’s six-year term.
But Duterte already admitted that the country could not achieve that in the near term, and would need to import rice.
The Department of Agriculture is projecting a record harvest of 20 million metric tons of rice this year after posting 19.28 million MT in 2017.
Last year, the country’s rice production reached 19.06 million MT despite a series of typhoons that hit many of the country’s rice granaries.
Diokno has been pushing for the liberalization of certain agricultural commodities like sugar and rice to make the industry more competitive.
In an interview on Wednesday, he said that since the agriculture sector had “zero contribution” to the country’s economic growth, there was a need to put pressure on the sector to improve its productivity.
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