billgates2.jpgThe news that Bill Gates would make USD 20 million donation to IRRI for rice research is suppose to be some kind of good news that the big corporations should emulate. or that the Philippines (host of IRRI) should be glad about.

But the rub on this news is this. Ever since Philippinese hosted IRRI, this country never had sufficient rice production.  Time and again it has to import rice from Vietnam and Thailand, who, not too long ago, send their brightest agri scientist to study at IRRI.

 So what is wrong with this setup? Why is it that the Philippines never really benefited from the IRRI research?

They touted this ‘milagrosa‘ rice that never got into full production around the country. While other countries greatly improved their rice yield and variety, the Philippines is stuck with this ‘7-tonner’ that is worst than the native strain.

In other words, maybe IRRI should relocate to other countries because it is disadvantageous to the Philippines.  All these research and funding never redound to the benefit of the Filipino farmer or the nation. 

With the presence of IRRI, the Philippines ended up a major rice importer. Why? Because the rice variety being given to the local farmers are the inferior ones, prone to disease, low-yield, low-quality rice.

One might think of some conspiracy theory between DA, PhilRice and insecticide companies. We also need to do something against the rice cartel syndicate.We have never achieve rice production sufficiency ever since we have IRRI in our country. Of course, it is not IRRI’s fault. But if the government and local scientists can’t do anything to provide benefit to the local farmers in terms of better rice varieties, then let us move IRRI out to another country. Maybe when are the ones sending scientist to other country to study rice yields, we will be better off. Or we can encourage and fund researches done by State Agricultural colleges.In recent news, we are on the verge of rice crisis — again. We are to import rice from Vietnam and Thailand because, as always, it seems our rice variety is low-yield that it cannot supply our domestic demand. And thus, instead of finding long-term solutions to the chronic shortage, our DA Secretary is telling us to eat less rice or import more. Wow, sounds like Marie Antoinette. Maybe we should build a guillotine for him.

As of latest news, DA Sec Arthur Yap denied he ever said that.  What he said was to “urged fastfood outlets last week to offer half portions of rice because of a looming rice shortage.”  He added that it is every Filipinos right to conserve rice, “especially that 25,000 bags of rice are wasted every day” . So what do you call it when Jollibee starts to give you half a cup of rice? Isn’t that the same is force to eat less??

Surely, it does not need a queue in the market to know there is rice shortage. The fact that RP will import more this year and still price is going sky-high is enough indication we have (or is going to have) a shortage, regardless what DA or Malacanang will spin for the public.

 Houston, we have a problem here. For the government’s inefficiency (collusion and corruption?), we are to suffer by being forced to eat less rice. I cannot live by pandesal alone. Even here in distant shores, meals will not be the same without rice.

Already, opposition politicians are starting to have a grand time lambasting the government about the impending rice shortage and the increase importation. But when these people are the ones in power before, we also have the same problem on rice shortage.

And isn’t it suppose to be the long-ago obligation of the government to attain rice sufficiency ever since Marcos jumpstarted the program way back 70’s?

irri_rice.jpgThere can only be 3 things why we have rice shortage:

1. Low-yielding  rice variety being dispensed by government (DA)

2. Rice cartel/syndicate

3. Misdirected agri projects

Take your pick.

According to recent population projection, it is estimated that the Philippine population will grow by 90 million Filipinos by the end of this year. And to think the government has shown its incapability to to provide adequate supply of rice for now, it is a looming spectre that we will increase our rice volume imports every year onwards.

It is not helping that the Catholic Church perennially opposses any modern family planning method, thus helping the population boom.

Supply of flour is also inconsistent that even pandesal, which used to be a replacement for breakfast rice, is now becoming a rarity in the bakeshops. 

Now if only big business and multibillionaire like Bill Gates would focus their philantrophies on food production research rather than donate to save some endangered mouse somewhere…