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‘Don’t waste rice, order only what you can eat’

Rice dealers display rice and their prices at Sampol Market, at San Jose del Monte Bulacan on May 21,2023.

MANILA, Philippines — National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Administrator Eduardo Guillen over the weekend called on the public to stop wasting rice amid the possible shortage in supply as the El Niño phenomenon threatens the country’s palay production.

“The wastage of food is a big factor. We are appealing that if we cannot consume the entire one cup of rice, we should only order half (cup). All the stakeholders should help to make the task easier,” Guillen said.

At the same time, Guillen said that local government units (LGUs) should also conduct the necessary preparations to minimize the impact of the dry spell in their respective jurisdictions.

“We are appealing for unity. We call this ‘bayanihan.’ The LGUs can help more as they are the missing link. As a former mayor (of Piddig, Ilocos Norte), I know that LGUs can help as they have their own funds,” he added.

Food supply threat

Farmers’ group Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) president Danilo Fausto warned that El Niño phenomenon threatens the country’s food supply next year as he criticized the Department of Agriculture (DA) for lack of concrete actions to minimize the impact of the dry spell.

“Their (DA) programs (on El Niño) are clear but the issue is in the implementation,” Fausto said in a radio interview over the weekend.

He noted that farmers’ groups have been urging the DA to implement necessary preparation to ensure that farmers will be able to plant despite the dry spell.

“You need infrastructures. It requires bidding, budget. If you only start to provide funding, it will be too late,” Fausto said.

“The diversion dams, canal need repairs. Lateral canals cannot supply water from the dams because of leaks,” he added.

The PCAFI official noted that 75 percent of the country’s palay production comes from irrigated areas.

“If the government fails to supply water, our palay production will be affected and this will be felt during the first semester of next year,” he added.

Fausto said that aside from palay, also affected by the dry spell are cash crops including vegetables and root crops.

“Cash crops like vegetables, including root crops and onions are being planted near the rivers. If you don’t have water for irrigation, you cannot provide water for the cash crops. Even if you have deep wells, the water will also be affected,” he said.

According to Fausto, the government should not depend on importation as the El Niño is a worldwide phenomenon.

“The dry spell is also happening in Thailand, Vietnam where we import rice. What if we cannot also buy rice from them as the El Niño also affects them. These are frightening scenarios,” Fausto said.

He said that retail prices of food will also increase because of limited supply.

“If there is a shortage in the supply, it will result in the spike in retail prices. The poor or 30 percent and below of the country’s population will suffer because they cannot afford to buy rice. The rich can always buy regardless of the price,” he noted.

Fausto said that the government should hasten the construction of secondary dams, impounding systems to provide water for irrigation.

“This should be done while it is still raining although we are already experiencing below normal rains. The effect of El Niño is really frightening as definitely the result is shortage in the supply of food,” he said.

In a separate statement, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danilo Ramos said that the government’s El Niño Task Force and the National Irrigation Administration should inform the farmers on the plan of action to address the possible shortage of water supply for irrigation.

“We want to know NIA’s concrete plans on how to help farmers cope with El Niño and how to ensure the availability of rice and food crops despite extreme weather events,” Ramos said.

Livelihood assistance

Guillen said that among the worst-case scenarios being eyed by the NIA is to provide alternative livelihood assistance to farmers who cannot plant because of the dry spell.

“We have an estimate (on the farmers who may be affected by the dry spell). (Under the worst-case scenario) for those who cannot plant, at least they will be given alternative livelihood through the TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) of the Department of Labor and Employment. There is also the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s cash-for-work and food-for-work programs,” he added.

Guillen also called on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to provide additional funding for the repair of damaged irrigation facilities.

“We are asking the DBM to increase the budget of NIA so that we can construct and repair our irrigation canals and at the same time, provide livelihood to our farmers,” he said. QR Code

Published Date: July 10, 2023

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