Science and technology advocates want the government to take action in modernizing local agriculture.
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By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — At the forum for science and technology electoral agenda led by AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), experts agreed that government support in research and improving technology can spell wonders for the country’s overall rice production. It can stabilize rice prices and curb importation, it can increase the income of farmers and millers. All these, based on government data on palay harvest and production as cited by a rice expert who attended AGHAM’s forum. Although he focused just on the technology used in post-harvest milling and drying, he said a lot more of rice would be produced if technology here was improved.
For Joji Co, president of Philippine Confederation of Grains Association, the current trend of rising rice imports of the country could have been avoided if the country’s succeeding presidents had stuck to their promise of focusing on agriculture.
Our total rice imports, he said, is only five percent of what is wasted during the rice milling process, a problem which the country could have resolved if the government was supportive.
He cited Vietnam’s achievement. He visited Vietnam in 1995 after it came out of a civil war. At the time, he said Vietnam had 65 percent rice recovery after milling. But they improved on their technology and after 20 years, they’re now exporting rice.
In the Philippines, Co said, “if we improve our current 65 percent to 70 percent rice recovery after milling, we won’t have to import rice anymore.”
Co said the problems candidates should tackle are not just government neglect in helping improve mechanical dryers and other equipment, which Filipino farmers and millers use from the time palay is harvested. Another problem revolves on government saying or promising something but doing something else.
“Rather than promise us help (without really doing so), why doesn’t the government just say outright what their real policy in rice is?” he said.
By now, a “cartel” in rice and others more are benefiting from rice importation, Co said. “All we ask (candidates and government) is state the policy. Then we will stop rice milling and just import and tell the farmers to stop planting rice,” said Co.
But his heart is more for demanding, along with other science and technology advocates, that the government take action in modernizing local agriculture.
Coming from a second generation of millers, Co expressed confidence that with research funding from the government, Filipinos can develop better, more affordable technology in rice milling.