The growing consenus against our old "rice fallacy"
Photo: Dr. Rolando Dy at the Food Security and Infrastructure conference of the Davao Agri Trade Expo

In various policy fora in recent weeks, the issue of rice and food sufficiency became a hot topic on the heels of the increase in rice prices.

In The Food Security and Infrastructure Conference hald last September 20 in Davao City, long time food and agriculture expert Rolando Dy talked about letting go of our age old obsession with rice self sufficiency, going on to say that rice sufficiency is not food sufficiency, implying that food sufficiency matters more to a country where a goof fifth of citizens can barely afford daily sustenance.

In the Management Association of the Philippines forum late last week in Makati, Dy and other experts such as Ramon Clarete, Fermin Adriano and a few others came together to discuss the same issues. Most came to the consensus that it is time to let go of this obsession with making rice growing a national obsession no matter the cost to taxpayers.

Rather, it is time to make abundant and affordable food the bigger priority.

In his Inquirer column, economist Cielito Habito reflected on the MAP event, and encapsulated this policy shift for us it thus:

"Government is not supposed to be helping our farmers persist as high-cost producers; it’s supposed to help them become high-productivity, low-cost and competitive ones. That is where budgetary allocations of taxpayer money for rice should go, not for directly importing the commodity, which private traders could do better. And yet it is this flawed approach that has been our rice policy for ages, all because of our romantic attachment to the elusive idea of rice self-sufficiency."

"The economy-wide harm that high-cost rice does is especially obvious now, as spiking rice prices have triggered inflationary expectations feeding on itself and fueling more inflation. As a dominant part of the Filipino worker’s budget, it has also forced our wages up to less competitive levels, impacting on our competitiveness and impeding jobs well beyond rice farming and agriculture itself."

With this, the die is cast for a more liberal importation of rice and food, similar to Malaysia`s own policies, are in place. As rice prices have dropped slightly in many areas, have the seeds of this new policy begun to spread? We hope so.