AGRICULTURE Secretary William D. Dar said food production needs to be made more sustainable if it is to meet domestic demand, and added that he expects to achieve a level of near self-sufficiency with the help of reforms like the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

In remarks delivered for World Food Day Monday, Mr. Dar said the country’s current food adequacy level is at about 80% overall, and cited the need for further reforms to meet demand from the growing population.

“Sustainability is the key to producing enough,” he said, noting that the Philippines currently has to import to plug the gaps.

“Given the program on rice tariffication, the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and other programs that we are now putting in place… sometime in the future… almost all of the food requirements of the country can be locally produced,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar also directed the DA’s National Rice Program and Philippine Rice Research Institute to update their plans on changing consumer preferences and requirements.

Citing the Philippine Statistics Authority, the DA (Department of Agriculture) said food production has not kept up with population growth.

“We need to take care of our commodity industry. Local production is the priority, and imports (should) be a last resort,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar also noted that in the case of rice, some farmers and millers admitted that imported rice is superior in quality and taste.

“This is a development that the DA must consider. What is needed by the country now is not just higher levels of productivity but quality rice as well,” Mr. Dar said.

The DA has targeted a rice self-sufficiency level of 93%, from 86% currently.

According to the DA’s latest food supply outlook, the best-case scenario for the year-end rice inventory is 3.42 million metric tons (MT), equivalent to a 97-day supply.

However, pork and staple fish like round scad (galunggong) are projected to be in deficit at the end of the year.

The yearend pork deficit is estimated at 231,030 MT, equivalent to 45 days’ demand, while the demand for galunggong is expected to outstrip supply by 51,765 MT. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave