DA grilled over 1.3M MT rice import in 2014
MANILA, Philippines—A partylist lawmaker questioned the need to import 1.3 million metric tons (MT) of rice this year even when the country is expecting at least 96 percent rice self-sufficiency rate in 2014.
During Wednesday’s budget hearing of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the House of Representatives, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said the country got a 96 percent rice self-sufficiency rate in 2013, from 82 percent in 2010.
Alcala said the country only imported 500,000 metric tons of rice in 2013 to fill in the four percent deficit.
But this year, the country seeks a more ambitious 96 to 98 percent rice self-sufficiency rate, Alcala said.
This means the projected supply of rice will be at 12.38 million MT to fill in the demand for 12.9 million MT, Alcala added.
To fill in the deficit, Alcala said they would import at least 800,000 MT of rice on top of the 500,000 MT of import that President Benigno Aquino III announced in his State of the Nation Address in late July.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares questioned the need to import heavily when last year the country only made limited rice import.
He noted that the difference in the rice self-sufficiency rate this year from 2013 is minimal.
“If we have 96 percent rice self-sufficiency in 2013 and we imported 500,000 MT, and our rice self-sufficiency rate in 2014 will be at 96 to 98 percent and we will import 1.3 million MT, how can you explain this to the people?” Colmenares said.
“The math doesn’t add up,” he added.
He added that local farmers’ income is severely affected by the sale of imported rice in the market.
Alcala failed to answer the question, merely saying that their proposed P51.7-billion budget for 2015 will address the farmers’ needs.
“That’s why we need to help the farmers to lower their production cost through technology,” Alcala said.
The agency is seeking a P51.7-billion budget in 2015, or two percent higher from the P50.74 billion in 2014.
According to the budgetary major final output, the bulk of the 2015 budget or P16.2 billion will go to technical and support services, followed by farm-to-market road network services at P11.6 billion, poverty reduction at P4.3 billion, agriculture and fishery machineries, equipment and facilities support services at P4.1 billion, irrigation network services at P1.6 billion, among others.
Alcala said the production volume for 2013 reached 18.4 million MT, the agency’s highest yield of palay to date.
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