THE Philippines needs to take a long, hard look at its agricultural sector with its interminable failure to achieve rice sufficiency despite being a pioneer in rice research during the Marcos years.
The rice shortage is not at all an importation issue — a palliative measure — but one of production since the Philippines still has enough agricultural lands for the planting of staples like rice and corn.
Decades back, the International Rice Research Institute (IRR) based in Los Banos, Laguna hosted agriculturists from such other Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand. IRRI was at the forefront of the development of rice varieties resistant to insect infestations and those that need lesser water to thrive.
Now said countries are able to meet their own rice requirements and are even exporting to us. The question now is, what has happened to our agricultural sector for us to fail to supply our own rice needs?
Probably the 34.3 percent poverty incidence in the agricultural sector is reflective of all that ails it, including the lack of desire of the offspring of farmers to continue toiling in the fields.
And who can blame them when farming families have found themselves at the crucible of indebtedness as middlemen force on them farmgate prices even below cost of production and then sell the same in the markets with big profit spreads?
In the fisheries sector, the same seems to hold true with the poverty rate at 34 percent and fisherfolks only able to sell their tamban (herring) catch at P10 to P20 per kilo while the same sells at markets from P120 to P140 per kilo.
Food security will remain problematic for the Philippines as manifested by the rice shortage unless long-term solutions are found and implemented for the systemic problems that have mired farmers and fishermen in poverty.