I always knew that Philippine agriculture was very inefficient in delivering produce from farm to market, but until I read this recent Bloomberg article about Philippine rice production, I didn’t know by how much.
Now I know, and the amount of wastage will shock you too.
“In the Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer, farms like [Marlon] Ventura’s begin a chain of waste that lost about 2.44 million tons of the unmilled cereal last year, worth about 31.7 billion pesos ($644 million) at November’s prices. The tonnage represents about 83 percent of the country’s milled rice imports, and would be enough to feed 6 million of its 93 million people.”
I – and I suppose the whole lot of you as well – was brought up by my parents and grandparents to value rice as the staff of life and to conserve every grain brought to the table, so this amount of waste is just staggering.
The article mentions the lack of post-harvest facilities as one cause. Palay is still dried on rural roads, where they are trampled on by passing vehicles and eaten by birds and small mammals. Worn-out sacks full of holes are another.
Then there are the rats. Returning to Mr. Manuel’s farm:
“Each year, rats steal or foul almost three-quarters of a metric ton (1,654 pounds) of his rice. The cost — 12,240 pesos ($250) — equals 7.8 percent of his farm’s net income.”
To be fair, the Philippines isn’t the only country that has to grapple with vermin. Take India, for example.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) enumerates where the wastage comes from:
“… production losses as follows: cutting, 1%-3%; hauling, 2%-7%; threshing, 2%-6%; drying, 1%-5%; storage, 2%-6%; milling and processing, 2%-6%; and transport of milled rice, 2%-10%.”
Then there is rice left uneaten by diners and thrown away.
“… on the average, 26 grams or nearly 2 tablespoons (15 grams = 1 tablespoon) of food are wasted per capita per day.”
Last year, the government and its partners in media urged Filipinos to be more conscious in conserving the rice they eat. Well and good. Not much attention, however, has been given to the dismal state of the country’s agricultural infrastructure, and the concrete steps the government is taking to correct it.
It’s not as if the country lacks the technology that will enhance agricultural productivity. Presenting the Maligaya Flatbed Dryer which, if deployed en masse across the country, will help make the sight of palay-strewen roads a thing of the past:
“The Maligaya flatbed dryer, developed by PhilRice in collaboration with the University of Agriculture and Forestry in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, can dry as much as 6 tons (120 cavans) of paddy rice in one operation through its rice hull biomass furnace. The dryer removes moisture from the grain at 1.5-2.0% per hour. Aside from the moisture meter, which was provided to help the farmers measure the grain moisture content, the dryers are also constructed with a shed built into the concrete drying bin.”
Another solution? Organic rice farming.
Now if only the government will get serious and lick these problems then maybe we don’t have to be dependent on rice imports and get to finally shed that shameful label of being the “world’s largest rice importer.”