Philippine agriculture

‘We have to start importing’: Marcos worries over rice supply amid El Niño

Michelle Abad

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‘We have to start importing’: Marcos worries over rice supply amid El Niño

Porters load sacks of rice to be placed in a warehouse in Dagupan Street in Tondo, Manila on June 26, 2023.


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks at the possibility of importing rice from other Southeast Asian countries in anticipation of dry spells

MANILA, Philippines – While the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has raised its El Niño Advisory, with the weather phenomenon prevailing over the tropical Pacific until the first quarter of 2024, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the country needs to begin preparing for when dry spells are truly felt.

‘We have to start importing’: Marcos worries over rice supply amid El Niño

In a briefing with Cagayan Valley officials on the situation of Typhoon Egay on Saturday, July 29, Marcos, who appeared to be disturbed over the hundreds of millions in damage to agro-fisheries, said that the Philippines needed to start importing more rice.

According to Pagasa, El Niño “increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions” which may bring droughts in some areas of the country. However, the southwest monsoon or habagat is also expected during this time.

Damage to agro-fisheries in Cagayan Valley was pegged at over P774.2 million, the Cagayan Valley Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported in the Saturday briefing.

Ang hirap nito. Because yung palay, iniisip ko na yung supply natin kapag nag-e-El Niño talaga. Mag-i-import na naman tayo,” said Marcos, who is also the incumbent agriculture secretary. (This is hard. I’m thinking about our supply of rice when it really feels like El Niño. We will have to import again.)

“Indonesia is importing, Vietnam has closed. India has closed. But I think I can make a deal with India… But we have to start importing already. Vietnam says they’ve exported everything they could, so we can turn to Thailand. Everybody’s preparing for El Niño, all of Southeast Asia. Everyone is buying at the same time, that’s why I’m nervous that the prices will be high even if we import,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Senator Imee Marcos, who was present in the briefing, recommended the rehabilitation of all dams and collection areas so the country can have rain harvest.

Filipino farmers are negatively affected when the country turns to the importation of rice. According to a February 2023 IBON Foundation report, rice import dependency and trade deficit have worsened, while rice self-sufficiency has fallen compared to 2018. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.