MANILA - Filipino farmers believe they can plant enough rice to meet the country's needs if they will be given enough aid by government, a farmer's group said Friday.
The statement came a day after a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report that said the Philippines has overtaken China as the world's top rice importer.
Farmers were appalled by this development, saying that there would have not been a need to import if they were given more help, according to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
"Kayang-kaya po, kasi ang sabi mismo ng gobyerno, na 4 na milyong ektarya ang tinatamnan ng palay. Tingin nga namin mula sa 80 cavans average yield per hectare, kung magiging 100, tingin namin kayang-kaya. Hindi lang food self-sufficiency, pwede ngang sa hinaharap. Two to three years, posibleng makakapag-export tayo," said KMP official Danilo Ramos.
Stakeholders believe the USDA projection is an effect of the Rice Tariffication Law, which liberalized importation in the country. Under the law, government lost its control on import limits.
Farmers believe the situation might worsen if tariffs on rice imports will be either lowered or removed.
"Wala nang pinagkaiba ang polisiya ng gobyerno at mga smuggler. Sa smuggler, patago! Ang zero tariff, ililigalisa ang rice smuggling," Ramos said.
Importers say they will lessen the volume of imports in the coming months, as harvest peaks.
"Tingin ko naman yung mga importer hindi yan ngayon magpaparating kasi meron kaming sinusundan na kapag local harvest natin, majority sa amin, hindi kami nagpaparating, konting-konti lang," said Orly Manuntag of the Philippine Rice Information System.