Former President and now House Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is giving caution about the perils of excessive reliance on rice importation.
Arroyo, an economist, warned that depending too much on rice imports would make the country and consumers vulnerable to the unpredictable and turbulent global rice market.
Instead of over-reliance on imported rice, Arroyo advocated the need to boost local rice production through modernizing agriculture, improving supply chains, among others, that her administration previously implemented.
“Now, the Philippines is lining up imports from Vietnam and India through government-to-government contracts, which India allows,” Arroyo said during the recent Golkar Institute Lecture Series in Indonesia.
“To have sufficient rice reserves in the event of supply and market disruptions, it is important to boost domestic production. Depending too much on imports exposes countries and consumers to the vagaries of the highly volatile global rice trade,” Arroyo said.
In her lecture titled “Resilience in Rice: More than just big harvest,” the former leader shared her administration’s programs to bring down prices and stable supply when faced with global grain price surge in 2008.
She recalled how her administration imported rice, but only “at a low early price” from Thailand and Vietnam. The government also had ample market clout to defeat and deter speculators, she added.
“Speculators will always seek to treble profits by holding on to stocks, which escalates prices and future gains. But we maintained market clout, especially in areas likely to suffer shortages, like typhoon-prone regions and urban areas far from farms,” she said.
She said the government also “kept ample stocks all the time, rather than rushing to import when prices shot up.” She noted that various factors, from weather patters to market swings, could drive up prices and disrupt supply.
But at the same time, the Arroyo administration took proactive steps to shore up rice production in the country. Her blueprint included enhancing irrigation systems, providing farming inputs such as seedlings and fertilizer, grain dryers, farm-to-market roads and other post-harvest facilities.
“These inputs and facilities cut costs and spurred production, especially among farmers who had not bothered producing rice because there was no road to bring it to market,” she said.
To boost local supply, the Marcos administration has reportedly imported 2.33 million metric tons of rice as of Sept. 7, according to government data.