PH unlikely to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013

Posted at 11/28/2012 2:01 PM | Updated as of 11/28/2012 2:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' goal of rice self-sufficiency by 2013 is impractical and not feasible, according to a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

In a study, PIDS senior research fellow Roehlano Briones said the country is not likely to achieve rice self-sufficiency, whether in 2013 or even through 2020. 

President Aquino has boasted that the Philippines will not only become rice self-sufficient by 2013, but also become a net rice exporter. The Aquino administration has crafted the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) aimed at rice self-sufficiency or zero imports by 2013. 

Briones said the Department of Agriculture's efforts to improve rice production, such as improving irrigation and developing new crop varities, are not enough. 

He noted the FSSP targets are based on highly ambitious and unrealistic projections palay yield , from 3.78 tons/ha to 4.53 tons/ha, and production from 17 to 22.7 million tons, over the period 2011 to 2016, corresponding to annual growth rates of 3.8 and 6.3%, respectively. 

"These growth projections are clearly unattainable considering that historically, yield and production grew by a meager 1.5 and 3.2 percent, respectively, from 1994 to 2010," he said. 

Raising rice production alone would not eliminate importation, Briones added. The only way to achieve rice self-sufficiency is to increase import barriers, but this would make rice more expensive. 

"The supply-demand analysis furthermore shows that simply raising productivity growth even higher would still fail to eliminate imports. The only way to make self-sufficiency feasible is to raise barriers to rice imports. However, this makes rice substantially more expensive — an outcome that is inimical to food security," he said. 

Briones further said the government should not equate "self-sufficiency" with zero imports.  

"For one, policy should target nutritional norms for rice consumption, rather than accommodation of consumer choices... Moreover, self-sufficiency should be qualified by affordability; a country should not be seen as 'self-sufficient' in rice, if its price prevents poor households from achieving nutritional norms in food intake," he said. 

Briones added, "Investments for rice (particularly irrigation) should not be dictated by simplistic production/consumption imperatives. Rather, traditional measures of project worth, such as internal rate of return, should be reinstated as part of the budget allocation process. This way the government can avoid cost escalation and restore fiscal sustainability in the self-sufficiency program." 

The PIDS senior fellow urged the government to rethink its goal of rice self-sufficiency.