The President lied about the rice situation

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has learned the subtle art of lying, and he had ample opportunities to demonstrate this last Monday when he delivered his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint session of Congress at the Batasang Pambansa.

Obviously, the President felt he needed to cite impressive statistics to bolster his image after seeing his approval ratings slide. And we saw that the President isn’t above telling lies to arrest that slide and give the nation a false sense of security about the rice situation.

In trying to paint a picture of stability in the supply of rice, the President recited the following: in 2010, the country’s total rice imports stood at 2 million metric tons; this fell to 855,000 metric tons in 2011, 500,000 metric tons in 2012 and this year total imports have been pegged at 350,000 metric tons.

But the President made no mention of production figures. Had he done that, he could have detected that he was holding inaccurate, or distorted, information.

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported that total production of palay in 2011 was 16.68 million metric tons. In 2012, this rose to 18.03 million metric tons. The total production for 2010 was a low 15.77 million metric tons. With that data, it would seem production is indeed going up.

However, data from previous years show that palay production has moved up and down depending on climatic conditions. When there is a drought, production will fall. With enough rains, production will increase. For 2008, total production was 16.82 million metric tons. In 2009, output was recorded at 16.27 million metric tons.

In other words, palay production never really increased dramatically to conclude that we have achieved sufficiency in rice and require a much lower level of imports. We have to keep in mind that along with production and imports, we have to look at the growing population of the country. Each year, several million Filipinos join the growing population of rice eaters. It’s easy to see that production levels for the past  five years would be inadequate to keep pace with demand.

So where are we getting the rice to fill the gap? If we are importing less and producing just about the same to feed a fast-growing population, how are we able to cope? Are Filipinos eating less rice?

Of course, the only logical answer is that there’s more rice smuggling. It’s a simple equation that doesn’t need a statistician to supply answers. We are not producing enough of the staple crop, and we are depending on Thailand and Vietnam — smuggling — to survive.

The President deceived us. In trying to present a performance-filled governance, he lied to us.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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