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Rice supply woes food security issue–Loren

/ 10:39 PM October 03, 2013

Senator Loren Legarda batted for more government support for farmers to increase rice production, saying supply problems hounding the government go beyond just numbers but have become issues of food security.

Legarda, in a statement, cited reports that Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan had informed President Aquino that domestic rice supply is running low and could be augmented by importation.

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“This probably explains why the public continues to be burdened with unstable rice prices despite assurances from agricultural officials that buffer stocks are sufficient and production figures within target,” Legarda said.

Legarda is author of Senate Resolution No. 233 calling on the Senate committee on agriculture to look into the country’s rice supply.

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A memorandum of the National Economic and Development Authority had detailed third quarter production forecast. It said the projected harvest of 7.4 million metric tons would be insufficient to meet demand that could exceed 9 million MT.

“This is alarming because it goes beyond just the issue of rice self-sufficiency. It has become a food security concern,” Legarda said.

“If domestic production cannot meet demand, prices will naturally increase—as they already have—which may lead to widespread hunger if unabated,” Legarda added.

“What is certain is that government should spend more for irrigation development programs that will increase productivity,” she said.

In a recent visit to Nueva Ecija, a rice-producing province, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he saw no reason to limit the sale of National Food Authority (NFA) rice to the province’s consumers because there is enough supply.

He said he has ordered an investigation.

Alcala was responding to complaints of consumers from remote villages in Nueva Ecija who bought NFA rice in public markets but were told by retailers that they could buy only a kilogram per family a day due to limited supply.

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NFA rice retailers in the Science City of Muñoz had limited the sale of government rice because their weekly allocations were reduced from 70 cavans (each cavan contains 50 kg of rice) to 50 cavans.

But Alcala said the DA has not set limits on the sale of NFA rice. “We will send investigators to correct this at once,” he said.

According to Alcala, the country has enough rice supply and his earlier announcement of hitting a rice self-sufficiency level is attainable this year. “I have been going around the country and I fully believe we will be able to attain our goal [of rice self-sufficiency],” he said. With a report by Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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