Duterte pessimistic about rice sufficiency target due to massive land conversion

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 Oct) — President Rodrigo Duterte expressed pessimism about the country’s rice sufficiency target as a result of massive conversion of rice fields into areas intended for growing of export crops.

In a press conference upon arrival here Friday from Bali, Indonesia, Duterte said the current rice production of the country necessitated the importation of rice to temper inflation in the country.

“But frankly, I do not think that we will be rice sufficient. I don’t know if — in the years to come,” he said.

Farmers in Barangay Midpapan in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato remove weeds from their rice field in this file photo taken in February 2012. MindaNews photo by RUBY THURSDAY MORE

Duterte said large tracts of land have been converted into “cash crop” intended for the export market. He admitted agriculture remains the weakest link in the country’s economy.

He said it’s the job of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to keep the balance between rice for local consumption and cash crop for export to prevent rice shortages in the future.

“We cannot control unless we expropriate but that is not a good way of doing it in governance na kukunin mo ‘yung lupa na saan naman marami nagtatrabaho (that you get the lands where many people are working on),” he said.

He said the rice supply was further affected by climate change, which causes weather disturbances.

“It has affected really rice planting. So I don’t know if it is now a truism but climate change maybe has really — has made more storms violent and longer periods of dry and wet season,” he said.

On October 8, President approved the unimpeded importation of rice as a measure to temper inflation.

Duterte said Pinol”wants to flood the market with rice so that even if the price of crude and other oil prices should go up still further, the people will have access to affordable rice.”

He said this will allow private companies to import rice directly from foreign suppliers.(Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)