Rice is the main staple food consumed by Filipinos -- the main food component for breakfast, lunch and supper. Rice is the main component also of many Filipino delicacies -- bibingka, suman, puto, nilapit, binallay, siopao, espasol, arroz caldo, etc. - eaten in between meals (merienda), during special occasions or as snack food.
Filipinos are even more reliant on rice as source of carbohydrate food source compared with peoples of other Asian countries where noodles and other cereals complement rice as staple carbohydrate food sources. Noodles are popular also among Filipinos, but it is not considered to replace rice, but more as part of a dish recipe or soup eaten in-between meals (merienda). The other consideration with noodles as rice complement is that other than rice-based noodles, the wheat or soybeans used in Asian noodles are also imported mostly by the Philippines.
As part of the Ecosystem Sustainability project of Kalikasan-Philippines, we address the following issues:
- Is rice production keeping pace with the explosive population growth of the Philippines?
- What factors impact rice production?
- In a separate discussion relevant to Ecosystem Sustainability, we ask the question: Are there really more than 3 million hectares of irrigated rice fields in the Philippines?
In this discussion, we focus on "Rice Production, Supply, Imports, Exports and Consumption in the Philippines". It is quite apparent from Fig. 01, that after 1994, the Philippines has increasingly relied on rice importation to supplement local rice production. Dependence on rice importation is very precarious because world rice supply available for trade is very tight, since many of the major rice producers are also the major consumers.
Climate. Climate change and global warming, as well as the impact of El Niño and La Niña have affected rice production. The regular typhoons that visit various regions of the country during the rainy season could contribute to decreased palay production, especially if the major rice producing regions may hit by a super-typhoon. The spikes in rice importation by the Philippines often coincide with decreased (or slower growth in) rice production due to the exacerbating impact of these climatic factors.
Technological challenges. Rice yield depends so much on water availability, which is major impediment during the dry season in areas where there is no irrigation. Post-harvest losses (PHL) is another major factor in reducing rice production. Addressing these technological challenges are among the major focus of Kalikasan-Philippines.
Agricultural land conversion. More than half of the arable lands used for temporary crops are devoted to rice production. However, because of the explosive population growth in the Philippines, agricultural lands conversion for use in other human activities have accelerated, especially near urban areas. This is especially critical in the National Capital Region (NCR) megalopolis -- comprising the regions of Metro Manila, CALABARZON and Central Luzon -- where more than 37% of 100 million Filipinos reside. Similar trends are observed in other regions throughout the Philippines.
If more agricultural lands continue to be lost in the future, this will challenge the ability of the Philippines to meet the increasing demand of the growing population of Filipinos.
Reduced consumption. It is interesting that the Domestic (Rice) Consumption levels off regularly whenever there is a significant decrease in rice production, especially after 2009 when there is prolonged duration of the leveling off of the Domestic (Rice) Consumption up to 2014 (Fig. 01). It will be shown in a separate article that the per capita rice consumption in the Philippines has gradually increased from 1960 to the present.
- Palay or Paddy rice, refers to the freshly harvested rice grains. Palay has a moisture content of about 20-26%, sometimes even higher. The moisture content must be reduced quickly to about 14%, otherwise, palay is quite susceptible to microbial attack and degradation. Oil, gas, or conventional combustion of rice hull power existing mechanical rice dryers. The dryer and the fuel used are expensive and unaffordable to most farmers. Thus, Filipino farmers use sun-drying to dry palay (harvested rice). Sun-drying is slow, labor intensive and unreliable during the rainy season. Infestations, bird feeding, contamination and post-harvest deterioration decrease yield, quality and price of sun-dried palay. Previous survey estimated the post-harvest losses for rice to be about 15%.
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