Friday, April 04, 2008

Is there rice crisis?

METHINKS it was hilarious one morning of late when I read a newspaper that splashed some news that the cause of the rice crisis was the burgeoning population. Why? Has there suddenly been a freak of whatever that all the babies born in less than a year’s time have eaten all our rice to cause a phenomenal crisis? Impending though it was, but a year ago there were no talks of hoarding or of MalacaƱang having problems with the truth on the issue of rice.

The population is always the escape goat, as if reducing the population will do the magic of moderating the greed of a few who always get the lion’s share. North Korea and some African countries have reduced their populations substantially—but their populace is hungry just the same. The equation of less mouth equals more food is not only a myth, it is childish. The relativity of production and consumption is basic in economics—which is as true as one-plus-one-equals-two. But when both production and consumption become politicized, the fundamentals are changed, especially when politics like in the Philippines is defined by heavy tolls of corruption. Rice cartels like gambling become handmaids of political ends and maneuverings.

But is there really a rice crisis? MalacaƱang says, there is none. And so says the Department of Agriculture. The militants and those on the other side of the political fence say there is. One thinks that even the very act of telling the truth or lies has become an instrumentality of politics. Indeed, there is not only a shortage of rice, but, worse, a shortage of objectivity.

Truth to tell, the Philippines have been importing rice for many years now. While we have the best rice institute and the most number of agricultural schools in the planet, ironically, the Philippines is one of the top rice importers in the whole world. By now, we should be exporting. But, why so? Well, technocrats have volumes of answers and justifications. But maybe its simply because instead of thinking about farming, the country has been busy dreaming of a nationwide broadband internet connectivity and all its financial derivatives; instead of using fertilizers for the soil, we used them for the pockets; and so on and so forth.

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