The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is planning to submit a proposed reform agenda for rice sufficiency to Cabinet members and economic managers for deliberation, and later pass it on to President Benigno Aquino 3rd for consideration in reforming the country’s rice production and importation policy.
The proposed reform agenda outlines three targets, according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan: raising farmers’ incomes; increasing consumer welfare; and stabilizing rice prices.
In a rice self-sufficiency dialogue headed by the NEDA on Friday, Balisacan noted the suggestions and critical concerns on rice production and importation as raised by Larry Wong of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia, and Rogier van den Brink, lead economist at World Bank.
Economic experts Wong and van den Brink said the country should allocate majority of its agriculture budget to research and development—or as much as 70 percent of the budget spent on agriculture—which would also help improve and innovate irrigation systems.
Wong also said that the Philippines “is still missing out” on privatization of rice supply chains compared with its Southeast neighbors, and said that doing that, as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar did, will increase domestic rice production and increase the country’s chances of achieving its rice self-sufficiency targets.
Wong also noted that the Philippines has a high rice self-sufficiency target of 100 percent, while Malaysia and Indonesia have 90 percent and Japan 80 percent.
Also, van den Brink pointed out that households in the Philippines spend more on food and rice—with 41 percent of household income consumption going to food purchases. Of food purchases, rice comprises 20 percent. Filipinos spend a minimum of P34 per kilogram of rice, while the Vietnamese buy the same quality of rice for P16 a kilo.
Increases in rice prices could eventually cause a hike in local wages, which would diminish the country’s competitiveness in the Southeast Asian region, the WB economist said.
”The ‘buy high’ [policy]of the National Food Authority (NFA) [for farmers]is still low and not enough to fully support the poor farmers . . . there is still a [big]gap between rice production and consumption,” van den Brink said, referring to the NFA’s policy of purchasing unmilled rice to help farmers earn more.