Cutting rice imports needs time, tech –Neda exec


WEANING the Philippines off imported rice would take time and require investments in modern technologies, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon explained that the smaller farm lands in the country require modern technology to help farmers produce more goods.

This means, Edillon said in a recent TV interview, that the country needs to continue importing rice to prevent the country from experiencing any shortages caused by typhoons and similar disasters in the short-term.

“Kailangan nating i-maintain pa rin na mayroon tayong agriculture sector [We must still take care of our agriculture sector], also for our own security,” Edillon said. “Especially over the short-term,” she added, “we cannot avoid importing rice for the times when we are in deficit.”

Among the important considerations in boosting agriculture production and eventually exporting is the need to develop a comparative advantage, she stressed.

She listed specialty rice among the products that can be exported. These kinds of rice are expensive here but are more expensive abroad, allowing Philippine exporters to earn more, she noted.

This has already been considered by the government especially when it was formulating the Rice Tariffication Law, as exporting specialty rice could be a source of income for farmers.

“It’s expensive here, but even more expensive outside. So, if we can boost it, there’s good potential in these kinds of rice,” Edillon said, partly in Filipino.

Efforts to push for food security in the medium term include decreasing stunting to below 20 percent in the medium term as part of efforts to address the triple burden of malnutrition, according to the Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

The Marcos administration aims to bring down the prevalence of stunting among children under five years of age to 25.2 percent this year; 23.8 percent in 2024; 22.3 percent in 2025; 20.8 percent in 2026; 19.4 percent in 2027; and 17.9 percent in 2028. The baseline in 2021 was pegged at 26.7 percent.

The triple burden of malnutrition, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), includes undernutrition, overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies.

Wasting and stunting does not only compromise the health of Filipinos, but also their ability to excel in school and potential to earn a decent living in the future. Obesity, meanwhile, makes children susceptible to diseases.

The government aims to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition or wasting for children under five years from 5.5 percent in 2021 to 5.3 percent this year; 5.1 percent in 2024; 4.9 percent, 2025; 4.7 percent, 2026; 4.5 percent, 2027; and 4.3 percent in 2028.

Overall, the PDP aims to increase the proportion of households meeting 100-percent recommended energy intake from the 21.8 percent baseline in 2018-2019.

The government aims to increase this to 25.2 percent this year; 23.8 percent in 2024; 22.3 percent, 2025; 20.8 percent, 2026; 19.4 percent, 2027; and 17.9 percent in 2028.