A Filipino meal would almost always include a cup or two of rice. Indeed, it has been a staple for Filipinos from all walks of life – a part of the dietary portfolio handed down across generations through traditions of family meals and gatherings.
It would be unimaginable for an average Filipino dining table to be one without a bowl of rice – but that would not be hard to imagine soon, because data show that this might become a reality for some, given current trends in Philippine rice production and consumption.
Facts and realities show that with the declining lands use for rice production, partnered with low production due to several factors including outdated farming technology and threats of agricultural land conversion to commercial or residential lands will lead the country to a sad tale of rice insufficiency for parts of the Philippines.
Declining farmland for rice
In a presentation by PARAGOS-Pilipinas during a round-table discussion on food security and NLUA, of the total 34.29 million hectares of land in the Philippines, only 9.12 percent or 3.13 million hectares are being used for rice production, and only a measly 1.86 million hectares are classified as total areas irrigated.
This can be further broken down into island groups: Luzon, with a total of 14.80 million hectares of land, only has a sum of 1.79 million hectares of land for rice production – a measly 12.1 percent of the total.
Meanwhile, Visayas has 5.99 million hectares of land, and 5.62 percent or 336,910 hectares of which are being used for rice production. Mindanao, with 13.4 million hectares of land, only uses around one million hectares for rice production – a small 7.45 percent of the total.
Meeting demand for rice
While less land dedicated for rice production does not necessarily mean less or insufficient rice production or output, Philippines’ farming technology realities, let alone completion of irrigation for all lands usable for rice production, stunt chances for the Philippines to meet its people’s demands.
Computations made by PARAGOS-Pilipinas show that with recent data on population, rice consumption, and rice production (calculated at 65 percent of Palay production) may pose a possible shortage in local supply of rice if demand stays constant or rises up – signaling more importation of rice from neighboring countries.
Luzon, being the biggest island group, has a total annual rice consumption of 7.04 million metric tons, but only produces 6.9 million metric tons. Visayas, meanwhile, consumes 2.4 million metric tons of rice but only produces 2.00 million metric tons. Mindanao will have a 0.3 million metric tons deficit – with the whole island group consuming 2.96 million metric tons but only being able to produce 2.63 million metric tons.
That brings the total country deficit at around 0.7 million metric tons – if demands computed from 2015 population data and annual rice production data from 2016 stay constant.
And with the continuous threat
The Department of Agriculture’s Research and Development office, in 2015, emphasized the need to redefine and further specify protection of prime agricultural lands through passing a National Land Use Act: “We must therefore define ‘prime agricultural land’ in the context of (1) agricultural science, i.e., e.g., agronomy and horticulture for crops, animal science for livestock, aquaculture science for terrestrial fisheries; (2) agricultural economics, i.e., the existing and potential productivity, presence and potentials for infrastructure such as roads, marketing facilities, spatial features such as location, proximity to markets and source of inputs, etc.; (3) technology and development – amenability to further productivity and increased economic returns due to technological developments in agriculture and related sciences.”
The note continues further: “‘Prime agricultural land’ must thus be defined as those areas, generally alluvial lands, suitable for agricultural production (field and horticultural crops, livestock and aquaculture); inclusive of those with existing infrastructure and amenities that enhance productivity and viability and those that still be brought to productive agricultural activity through the provision of such infrastructure and technological development; areas with locational characteristics that make them productive and economically viable such as those proximal to markets and additionally provide non-market benefits and amenities to society; as well as those within and around these areas, inclusive of fragile ecosystems, degradation of which through other types of development and use will adversely impact on the productivity and viability of ‘prime agricultural lands’.”
— RealTalk, June 17, 2018
Editor’s note: This story was produced with support from the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and ILC-NES Year 4.