by Christele J. Amoyan
With the National Year of Rice thriving more than three million advocates over Facebook and Twitter, it seems like rice is the next RICE-ing star in 2013, isn’t it?
This 2013 is the National Year of Rice (NYR) by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 494 of President Benigno C. Aquino III launched in October 18, last 2012. The NYR 2013 nationwide campaign carries the theme “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas.” Hence, this embodies PNoy’s take in his 2nd State of the Nation Address some two years ago, “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-angkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan Dela Cruz dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”
NYR here at Elbi
NYR’s major goal is to increase awareness of Filipino consumers to cut rice wastage. “Marami na ngang kumakain, marami pang nagsasayang ng kanin,” told Richard Romanillos, PhilRice Los Baños Development Coordinator. According to him, in 2010, about 13 per cent of rice import has been wasted. This aggregate could already feed 2.6 million Filipinos in a span of year. In fact, PhilRice surveys that for every two tablespoons of leftover rice, 17 million pesos were spent for rice supply. To meet rice self-sufficiency, PhilRice Los Baños conducts activities to encourage the community to partake with NYR 2013.
One of which is the Palayabangan. It follows a 10-5 challenge that tries to increase the level of rice production standard up to 10 tons per hectare at 5 peso input for every kilo of rice. The contest is monitored under 10-5work plan schedule from June to October. To date, the average rice yield is 4 tons per hectare producing 11-peso input per kilo. Palayabangan challenges rice players on how they can improve rice production with minimized cost. The winners will receive cash prizes of Php100,000 in the regional level and 5 million pesos in the national level. The participating rice varieties are now sited at the UPLB AgriPark.
Pinoy’s rice choice
Filipinos love eating rice; so much that we have a variety of rice recipes in the Philippines. We have sinangag (fried rice), porridge (lugaw), plain rice, and our childhood favorite, ampaw (rice pop). Some restaurants even offer unlimited rice. With that, it is safe to say why the Philippines ranks 8th among the top largest consumers of rice in the world as reported by the Philippine Rice Institute (PhilRice). Additionally, PhilRice says that 30 to 70 per cent of daily caloric intake of Filipinos depends mainly on rice consumption.
“Meron tayong isang mabigat na problema. Tumataas man ang production natin, ang population naman natin ay tumataas din,” said Romanillos. Since Philippine population is targeting at roughly 98 million this year according to the Commission on Population (PopCom), this could even fuel up the country’s rice demand.
According to a press release from the Department of Agriculture (DA), Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the NYR 2013 is bidding for collective effort among farmers, LGUs, private sectors and the consumers to achieve rice sufficiency in the country. However, over the years, the rice production in the country remains a problem.
Since the rice demand is rising, experts seek for the rice alternative. Dr. Flordeliza H. Bordey, a socio-economist at PhilRice said that shifting to substitute staple food like sweet potato, corn and banana can improve rice self-sufficiency. This way, other neighboring countries like Japan and China can lessen rice shortage despite their increasing population.
Rice is a farmer’s life
Two million Filipino families depend on rice-based farming. In Quezon alone based from Romanillos’ research, an average farmer’s income plays at Php30,000 to Php35,000 per year depending on the harvest. This is barely half of the Php75,000 annual income marked by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Also, this is not enough to support a farmer’s family considering five members at the least.
Based on Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data, the total area of farmland declined at 2.36 from 10.0 million hectare in 1991 to 7.64 in 2002. After more than two decades, only one-third of the entire agricultural land in the Philippines was left. So far, an ordinary farmer owns 1.3 hectare on the average. This setback is due to rapid land conversion. Rice production diminishes while arable lands are continuously shrinking.
Due to these constraints, NYR targets farmer stakeholders on their intensive campaign advocacy on rice self-sufficiency. PhilRice, together with the Department of Agriculture, work with other agricultural sectors through local farmer-to-farmer trainings. This way, farmer technicians can have interactive collaboration with ordinary farmers with new technology and technique in rice-farming. Moreover, this kind of field-school strategy, according to Romanillos, is practically a good way to build trust with farmers in the provinces.
It is (y)our RICEponsibility
Rice is not just one person’s responsibility; it is everyone’s. The farmers plow the field, grow the rice and mill it. Rice industries market rice and they should distribute it to consumers in reasonable prices. Consumers, moreover, should only eat enough amount of rice so as to reduce wastage. Nonetheless, our scientists have to conduct innovative research to produce quality rice yield, while the government has to enact policies and laws to secure consumerism welfare in behalf of every stakeholder.
Bottomline: RICE is our RICEponsibility. Be RICEponsible, folks!