|Aside from the Philippines, the largest buyers of Vietnam’s rice include China and other countries in Africa. / Photo by Sirisak_baokaew via Shutterstock|
The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) proposes to import 300,000 metric tons of rice to ensure food security in the country while it contains the spread of the coronavirus disease in the Southeast Asian country, reports the official news agency of the Philippine government, The Philippine News Agency.
Philippines’ DAR Proposal to import rice
In a recent virtual conference by the DA, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles explained that the country’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has suggested the proposal to the Office of the President. This proposal of importation comes after reports that other rice exporting countries may hold rice shipments to also ensure food security amid the pandemic. Vietnam, the third largest rice exporter in the world, has temporarily halted new rice export contracts as it reviews stocks. Aside from the Philippines, the largest buyers of Vietnam’s rice include China and other countries in Africa. The Vietnam government said that it will not sign a new rice export contract yet until they make sure that they have sufficient domestic supplies to cope during the COVID-19 outbreak. Rice traders said, though, that Vietnam may soon lift its suspension and its government will simply impose a quota.
Last year, the Philippines surpassed China as the world’s biggest rice importer after the government removed the importation limits. It purchased 2.9 million tons of rice in 2019 and usually buys from Vietnam and Thailand. Southeast Asian rice suppliers are now being reached out to by Philippine government agencies to negotiate a deal, Nograles added.
|Rice is a staple food for most Filipinos in the country. / Photo by Jimmy Vong via Shutterstock|
Expanding local food production
To avoid a shortage in the country, they are also laying out measures to ensure continuous food production in the domestic country. The department has also sought a supplemental budget of about Php1 billion to fund its programs designed to ensure stable prices and food security in the country while it fights the coronavirus spread.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar likewise requested for a Php31 billion supplemental budget to fund the country’s food security program called “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra sa COVID-19." He said that there is a tightening of the food supply in the world with this pandemic and they recognize that when there is not enough food, disorder is likely to follow. This is why the country is improving its food adequacy level and they aim for food security. The Agriculture Secretary added, “The threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus.”
Of the amount requested, Php7 billion will be used for the "palay" procurement fund of the National Food Authority, Php8.5 billion for the rice resiliency project, and Php3 billion for the recovery and expanded SURE Aid Program meant to assist rice farmers. The department also plans to allocate the foods for an urban agriculture project, revitalizing the "gulayan" project, expanding small ruminants and poultry projects, social amelioration for farmers and farmworkers, and expanding an agriculture insurance project, among others.
Nograles has likewise reminded the law enforcers to make sure that the movement of cargo as well as workers from permitted establishments, like food products, agriculture, and the supply chain, are unhampered.
Rice as a staple food of Filipinos
Rice is a staple food for most Filipinos in the country. If the country’s per capita rice consumption was only 93.2kg per year in 1995, it rose to 123.3 kg per year in 2009. The per capita caloric intake from rice also increased from 917 kg per day in 1995 to 1,213 in 2009. The average protein requirements from rice similarly increased from 29.7% in 1995 to 34.8% per person per day in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, the Philippines was the biggest rice importer, amounting to 2.38 million in 2010. This is according to a research by Ricepedia, an online encyclopedia about rice.
Major rice producing parts of the country
Furthermore, the major rice-producing parts of the country are Central Luzon (18.7%), Cagayan Valley (11%), Western Visayas (11.3%), Bicol region (6.8%), Ilocos Region (9.8%), and the SOCCSKSARGEN (7.5%), a region in central Mindanao that comprises North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Sarangani. Nearly 70% of the total rice area in the country is irrigated and the remaining 30% is upland or rainfed. The common rice production constraints that the country face is climate change, high cost of inputs, declining land area, growing population, poor drainage, and inadequate irrigation facilities.
The agriculture sector has about 10.26 million people, representing 25.44% of the national equipment. The import volume of rice in the Philippines in 2018, by type (in metric tons), is glutinous rice (53,689.02), rice flour (16,034.86), rice in the husk (12,799.19), broken rice, used for animal feeds (9,000), rice vermicelli, uncooked (5,136.62), fragrant rice (717.82), broken rice (528.32), Basmati rice (264.08), rice preparations or pre-cooked rice (136.05), Thai Hom Mali rice (102), Parboiled rice (2.62), and other rice (1,903,090.17). Figures provided by database company Statista have been rounded off. In the same year, about 2.2 thousand metric tons of uncooked rice vermicelli was also exported by the Philippines as it produced a total volume of around 19.1 metric tons of rice, both domestically consumed and exported.
Other than rice, the volume of production in the Philippines in 2017 based on crops includes corn (7,914.9), Coconut (14,049.1), Sugarcane (29,286.9), Banana (9,166.3), Pineapple (2,671.7), Coffee (62.1), Mango (737.0), Tobacco (51.0), Abaca (68.8), Peanut (29.4), Mongo (35.3), Cassava (2,806.7), Sweet potato (537.3), Tomato (218.8), Garlic (7.8), Onion (184.4), Cabbage (122.5), Eggplant (241.9), Calamansi (116.7), Rubber (407.0), and others (3,560.5), as detailed in the Selected Statistics on Agriculture 2018 report by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Many farmers in the Philippines grow rice but it is also what nearly all people in the country eat. Most of the time, farmers have more flexibility in switching crops compared to consumers switching their staple food. This is why it is an important commodity and securing enough supply of rice is paramount in the country. Aside from being Filipinos’ main source of carbohydrates, it also creates the physiological sensation of satiety. If its yield is below the demand, importing rice from other countries will help the country meet its domestic demand, especially as the pandemic may affect the food system.