Broken rice, broken thoughts

I can’t help myself but be amused of how the government addresses the almost rice and fish crises in the country. Imagine the Philippines boasting and identifying itself as an agricultural nation and the price of a kilo of rice reaching the superlative amount of P80 and a kilo of galunggong hitting the P200 mark.

With practically the prices of all goods being sold at the market increasing because of the tax measures being implemented to fund the ambitious projects of the present administration, the lowly Filipinos are left with so little options as salaries have stayed the same.

Then came the news that in some places, the prices of a kilo of rice have soared beyond the unexpected. In Zamboaga City alone, the price has breached the P70 per kilo mark and no less than Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Pińol, who has been very active on his role, entertained the idea that government has been very strict on rice smuggling thus the almost zero supply of rice.

Pińol has completely lost his cool side in addressing the food problem the country is facing today. He even challenged a group listening to his speech to serve him broken rice perhaps feeling distraught over the criticisms that he failed to address the rice shortage.

As if the problem over the shortage of rice is not enough, the agriculture and fisheries sector announced the intent to import galunggong, the common tao fish, just to balance the severely high costs of fish in the market.

I can’t understand what happened to the promise of the current administration that they will be providing food to every table by employing sustainable agriculture and means.

The President has ominously declared that he will raid the warehouses of rice traders suspected of hoarding rice.

Apparently, it’s all about theatrics and approval ratings as nothing has actually happened.

The government has a lot of policy-making bodies and councils already relative to food production yet each time a problem arises, a new council is created to do this and that. Creating such bodies only means one thing, our leaders lack the foresight to see the real situation ahead of time.

We have to stop blaming the weather just to justify the very minimal rice produce around the country. It’s about adaptability and how the farmers are being supported by the government in infusing modern and climate resilient technologies in rice production. It’s about the government spending money on real consultants who have actual field expertise and a huge budget must be allocated for research and development so that its results could be converted into the ever changing fields.

In reality, many of our local agriculture and fisheries officials have no time to practice their profession because of the monstrous paper works that they need to prepare and sign every day.

The lack of dedication in their chosen profession, among those who are tasked to manage the field, is another problem as many appreciate their task in the context of accomplished task that needs to be reported at the end of the day.

As for the national leaders, lip service and personal interests are the norms. Many have spoken about sustainable agriculture yet the policies being implemented do not conform and are inconsistent.

A classic example is the regular releasing of certified seeds that are given for free to the farmers. Once the seeds are released, interventions from local agriculture offices are scarce. Meantime, the agriculture department has a lot of different programs like the organic rice farming, good agricultural practices program and a lot more dividing the focus of the implementing offices that are already suffering from the lack of able personnel.

Let’s admit it, a big factor is also the reluctance of the farmers to learn new knowledge on farming defeating any weak attempt to infuse modern ideas into their cultural practices.

As these problems linger, food production continues to drop. We do not need military powers as the President always boasts in arresting the situation. Real hard work less lip service would be the real answer.