While the Philippine government aims to attain rice self-sufficiency by 2013, research group IBON notes that the country is lagging behind its Asian neighbors in terms of agricultural growth.
Based on a study commissioned by the government, Philippine agriculture is 20 years behind other Asian countries. The country’s land productivity in terms of yield of traditional crops has declined, even as the labor productivity of farmers and agricultural workers has increased annually. Comparing land productivity with ASEAN member countries, the Philippines ranked 4th in rice, coconut, sugarcane, and 5th in corn.
World Bank data also showed that Total Factor Productivity (TFP) growth in agriculture—or the ratio of machinery investment in productivity—has stagnated in the Philippines at 0.2% per year over the past two decades, compared to 1% per year in Thailand, 1.5% per year in Indonesia, and 4.7% in China.
Moreover, the Philippines is also the only net importing country in agriculture among ASEAN members with a trade deficit of US$2.4 billion in 2009. The country’s total agricultural imports amounted to US$ 6.1 billion, with rice and milk among its top imports. Meanwhile, Philippine agricultural exports in 2009 amounted to only US$3.2 billion, which was small compared to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, which had over US$20 billion each. According to IBON, the Philippines has become the world’s largest importer of rice, which is ironic because the country is among the world’s major rice producers.
Amid food insecurity and overdependence on rice imports, government is implementing the food staples self-sufficiency roadmap 2011-2016, which targets that by 2013, the Philippines will already have achieved 100% rice self-sufficiency. However the roadmap, like previous agricultural modernization programs, espouses global competitiveness of local agriculture – it prioritizes production of exports instead of domestic food. The program has also largely been criticized for its bias for private foreign agribusiness, from which funding for the program would come.
According to IBON, the continuing problematic implementation of the land redistribution program hinders the country from attaining food self-sufficiency. As the country commemorates World Food Day and Peasant Month, the research group stresses that free land distribution to farmers is one of the fundamental requirements towards realizing food security. No amount of modernization or capital infusion in agriculture driven by foreign investment can help the country attain food self-sufficiency it is done in the same context of landlessness, the research group said. (end)