Thursday, May 1, 2008

THE GRAIN HEADACHE: Musing on the Philippine Rice Crisis (Part III)

Well, I was not able to put my thoughts on the current rice crisis in the country due numerous things I had to do, not to mention this training I am undergoing that consumes almost one-third of the hours of the day.

Anyway, for the past weeks I seemed to notice that I was back again in that disease in thinking, the thing I call the ‘boxed mindset’. In a nutshell, it is my behavior of thinking that involves just my immediate surroundings – describing things as they are and not realizing that it is just a part of a bigger scene that connects to the world.

That was the exactly the same thing with the rice crisis. Rice in IRRI blew up from 4 pesos to 6 pesos and I thought: heck, Philippine rice crisis seeping even into this international facility. But then as I’ve found, much to my surprise, it is but a panel in a one big picture of this crisis. It is a global thing that, no thanks to my shortsightedness, I unfortunately overlooked earlier.

Yeah, control over the export rice of several exporting countries is evident as I have mentioned before. The continued conversion of lands for commercial uses and industrialization is also there.

Care to see the extended end of this monster?

In some countries, increased demand in meat threatens the production of food in the form of grains. This would have severe impacts on the countries with that problem and at the same time in dire need of sustained food supply. Who haven’t heard of the ever-present poverty hovering over the people of Africa (I wonder why RICH AND HIGHLY INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRIES can’t even made it a point to HELP END POVERTY, AS IN A PERIOD; AN END in such poor countries? That’s another thing I’d want to talk about.)
And add to that the problems related to weather and pests which effectively limits or even destroy good production of the needed food. One can already see in here the scope of the crisis that is now encompassing many countries, not just the Philippines. Ultimately of course, the decrease in rice stocks must have also made an impact.

This would lead us to what they call long term supply-and-demand imbalance which I’ve heard when Randy Barker from IRRI held his seminar there. Essentially, as he had put it: “We are eating more than we are producing.” How about that?: population increase at its best. And the Philippines is on the top list as they say that we are the country that eat rice three times and sometimes more in one day. (One can put this on the debate line though.)

Balance however can only be obtained with the necessary technologies that would increase, and I mean increase, the yield of rice production, utterly destroying the gap between the consumption and the production.

But the present head of IRRI mentioned the high-yielding rice variety being already introduced during the similar crisis in the 70’s. He speculated that perhaps GOVERNMENTS BECAME TOO MUCH AT EASE because of this and only in these times we are experiencing the effects of such neglect.

You see, there is more to just blaming our government. But that does not exclude them from the blame of course. Perhaps the perfect harmony among the factors – farmers, lands, scientists, governments – should be strengthened today more than any time of the year. I personally believe that upheavals would be inevitable if people were thrown into the false thinking that food would be in shortage very soon. I personally anticipate civil wars (for reasons I would not discuss) but not for such a reason. Food? Heck, that is so shameful to the government and to the people who let themselves be in such state.

I would not want to be in that state soon and perhaps for the rest of my life. There may be trying times such as his. But if there are necessary steps already identified to crush down the crisis, why don’t we harmonize and do them NOW?

Ok, activism may be blurred for now, but I personally expect the government to lay down the policies in actualities, and I mean policies that would be felt all over the country, from the high-rise buildings in Manila to the rural people in the provinces.

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