WITH three of the country’s top rice-producing provinces left in a wreck by Typhoon Santi onslaught, the rice supply in the country is on the brink and could possibly lead to food crisis if the government fails to take decisive steps.
Sen. Loren Legarda last week warned of a situation similar to the 1995 rice crisis that stemmed from indecisive stockpiling on the part of the government agencies and the adverse effects of rogue weather that caused severe decline in the country’s rice supply.
Legarda warned that a strong typhoon pouring excessive rains could cause flooding that could wipe out entire harvests just like what happened in the last quarter of 201—Typhoon Juan destroyed half a million metric tons of palay.
Legarda, a known advocate of sustainable agricultural development, issued the warning upon learning about the memorandum of Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for the President, informing him of “food security issues” should the government fail to address a projected rice production deficit of as much as 1.4 million metric tons (MT).
Balisacan had forecast in his memorandum that harvests from Central Luzon would account significantly for the country’s fourth quarter harvests making up for its third quarter dismal performance.
However, the NEDA secretary noted that even if rice production rebounds in 4th quarter, deficits are expected to be incurred from as low as 0.5 million metric tons (MT) to as high as 1.4 million MT.
The Balisacan memorandum called for the immediate importation of 500,000 MT to make up for the production deficit. Copies of the Balisacan three-page memorandum were also sent to Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Secretary Julia Andrea Abad, presidential management staff and Secretary Proceso Alcala, of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
But despite that memorandum and Legarda’s warning the agriculture department has insisted that the country has sufficient buffer stock that could last until the harvest season.
“Because of good weather condition, the country can produce 13.03 million MT of milled rice, exceeding the domestic demand of 11.23 million MT,” Alcala noted.
Alcala’s projection however seems to be not realistic at this point following the devastation of Typhoon Santi particularly in Central Luzon.
Based on the initial report 15,000 hectares of rice fields about-to-be-harvested was damaged in the province of Nueva Ecija.
In Bulacan 10,000 hectares of ricelands were “totally damaged,” while rice fields in towns along the stretch of McArthur Highway, in Tarlac were also damage by the typhoon according to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Central Luzon produced around 3,220,607 MT of palay in 2012, and 1,587,163 MT of which came from Nueva Ecija.
Bulacan yielded 351,307 MT during the same period while Tarlac had 549,299 MT.
With the devastation left by the typhoon the recommendation of NEDA about the need of the country to import additional rice must not be given serious consideration, to prevent possible rice shortage in the coming months, Legarda said.