Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On rice "self-sufficiency"

There is the recurring observation that "IRRI is based in the Philippines, Thailand and other countries just sent their rice researchers to the Philippines and yet we remain a rice importer while they are big rice exporters."

I think it is impossible for the Philippines to aim for rice "self-sufficiency" and stop importing rice someday. Thailand will remain a rice export powerhouse, also Vietnam, and possibly soon, Cambodia.


The Philippines has 20 typhoons/year on average, causing various crop damages.
Thailand has almost zero typhoon. Vietnam has a few typhoons mostly coming from the Philippines.

The Phils. has only 4 million hectares of rice land, while Thailand and Vietnam have 10 mill. hectares each.

The Phils. has few big rivers (mainly coastal and/or mountainous), Thailand and Vietnam have Mekong river, other big rivers like Ton le sap river and lake (Cambodia).

The Phils. has 93 mill. people, growing at 1.8M per year (net of death and migration), Thailand about 65 mill. people and growing at only around 0.5M/year.

In short, the Philippines only has expanding population, not riceland. It is impossible and it is not desirable, to continue aiming for rice "self-sufficiency" and keep allocating huge amount of tax money every year for this goal.

There is nothing wrong with being a rice importer. HK, Singapore, Japan, are net rice importers. So long as you have extra resources to pay for rice imports, no problem.

The main strength and attraction of the Philippines is not rice production but tourism. If you are an archipelago with very long coastlines, thousands of islands and islets, mountainous and plenty of waterfalls, it should attract plenty of foreign and local tourists, we get the money, use part of it for rice importation.

The sooner that people will recognize this, the better.

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