President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his inaugural speech on Thursday, June 30, said food self-sufficiency will be a priority of his administration.
“The role of agriculture cries for attention… Food self-sufficiency has been the promise of every administration. None but one delivered,” Marcos said in his first speech as president.
He said there are "inherent defects" in the country's trade policies and spoke of the need for "radical changes" amid disruptions in worldwide food prices and supply due to the Ukraine crisis.
"There were inherent defects in the old ways and in recent ways, too. The trade policy of competitive advantage made the case that when it comes to food self-sufficiency, a country should not produce but import what other countries make more of and sell cheapest. Then came Ukraine," he said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscored food insecurity in many countries including the Philippines. Marcos will need to address rising food prices on top of the economic challenges.
Marcos announced last week that he was overseeing the Department of Agriculture (DA) himself as he expected a global food crisis to challenge the country. He said his two priorities include increasing the production of rice and “restructuring” the DA.
One of Marcos’ campaign promises was to lower the price of rice to P20 a kilogram. Stakeholders already said it will be difficult, if not impossible to achieve this objective, as the current farmgate price of palay (unhusked) rice is at about P19 per kilo already. For farmers to earn a profit, the retail price of rice is usually double this amount.
Outgoing agriculture officials said lowering the price of rice may mean providing more subsidies to farmers to help them fund their fertilizer needs this year. Globally, the price of fertilizers has increased by 30% since the start of 2022, according to the World Bank.
Incumbent Agrarian Reform Secretary Bernie Cruz also proposed the “Programang Benteng Bigas sa Mamamayan” (PBBM) early this June. The program aims to consolidate small farms into “mega-farms” for rice production. Marcos during his inauguration did not say whether he would take on the proposal.
On top of ensuring rice supply, the recovery of local pork production after the African swine fever outbreak decimated the industry in 2019 is also a concern. Outgoing Agriculture Secretary William Dar already said that more than 20 countries have made export restrictions on their food products as the raging Russian-Ukraine war continues. This has disrupted the entire global food supply chain further when it has not even fully recovered from Covid-19-induced challenges. END
— PCIJ, July 2022