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Rice trading policy needed for self-sufficiency – Oxfam

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines would have achieved self-sufficiency in rice production in 2009 had the government invested at least P59 billion in agriculture in the past three years, an international aid agency said on Thursday.
“If we had invested P60 billion in five years, we would have achieved 100 percent self- sufficiency (in rice production),” said Kalayaan Pulido-Constantino of Oxfam-Philippines, citing a study by Philrice, an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture.

The dearth in investments for agriculture and the lack of a coherent rice trading policy are among the factors that caused rice shortages, said officials of Oxfam, an international aid agency, during the launch of “Double-Edged Prices: Lessons from the Food Crisis.”

Instead of strengthening local agriculture, the country resorted to importation.

“Even now we do not have a coherent rice trade policy. This has brought us into this vicious cycle of external supply and made us vulnerable to the world market,” said Lan Mercado, Oxfam-Philippines country director.

Mercado observed that the lack of assistance to small-scale rice farmers, the backbone of the country’s food supply, led to a shift to more lucrative crops.

Since 2002, at least 9,000 hectares of prime rice lands were converted into commercial lots or plantations for plant species that could be turned into biofuel.

Ed Santoalla, Oxfam-Philippines economic justice program manager, said the lack of policies on rice production discouraged farmers from planting rice.

“The problem with this (lack of) policy is it provides a disincentive to rice farming,” he said. “Walang investment support, walang marketing assistance, walang farm-to-market roads.”

“A rice trading policy should be in place so that rice farming can be a good proposition for all,” Santoalla said.

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