Press Release
September 25, 2011


Senator Edgardo J. Angara urged the Aquino administration to boost its initiatives to achieve rice self-sufficiency targets as a Thai subsidy scheme is set to push global rice prices higher.

Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, noted reports that newly-elected Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra has pledged to follow through on campaign promises to purchase the staple from Thai farmers at a price almost 40 percent higher than the current market price. The policy is set to take effect on October 7.

"Thailand is the world's biggest exporter of rice. So when their prices go up, the rest of the world is driven to follow. This is an issue we need to address immediately, given we are the world's biggest importer of rice. Significant resources have to be devoted--and monitored properly--to truly boost efforts in putting homegrown rice on our tables," said the former Agriculture secretary.

HSBC said that global rice prices have risen 7.2 percent in the past six months. It also pointed out that the Philippines is particularly vulnerable to price hikes in rice as the staple comprises 9 percent of the country's commodities basket.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines imported around 1.8 million tons of rice in 2008. In a report, IRRI cited limited land area for immediate rice cultivation, continuous population growth, and lack of appropriate infrastructure as the main reasons for the country's massive importation.

Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) envisioned that the country could be rice self-sufficient by 2013. A policy note from government think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) contended that such plans have largely failed and have also led to the ballooning of government debt.

"We need to take a hard look at how our agricultural sector is run. One of the questions we need to answer is--are we making our rice crops disaster-ready? Billions are lost whenever we get hit by typhoons, landslides or flash floods. Given climate change is a complex scientific matter, we need to use the most advanced science and technology in making our agricultural sector more resilient," said Angara, Chair of the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE).

The veteran lawmaker noted that in 2010, COMSTE identified remote sensing for agriculture as a priority project for 2011.

"Technologies in satellite imaging and aerial photography can be used to gather data on our rice lands. If we deploy high-speed ICT systems throughout our rice-producing regions, our farmers and agribusinesses can get real-time information about harvest, soil and weather conditions. This will enhance their capacity to make important decisions quicker, as well as boost their capacity for precision farming," said Angara.

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