Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flew to Jakarta, Indonesia to attend the first-ever Golkar Institute Presidential Lecture Series as a guest speaker. Arroyo gave a presidential lecture titled “Resilience in Rice: More than just big harvest,” with food security as the primary focus.
Arroyo, an economist, gave caution about the perils of excessive reliance on rice importation.
In the lecture, Arroyo warned that depending too much on rice imports would make the country and consumers vulnerable to the unpredictable and turbulent global rice market. Additionally, she advocated the need to boost local rice production through modernizing agriculture and improving supply chains, the latter of which was implemented during her administration.
“Now, the Philippines is lining up imports from Vietnam and India through government-to-government contracts, which India allows. To have sufficient rice reserves in the event of supply and market disruptions, it is important to boost domestic production. Depending too much on imports exposes countries and consumers to the vagaries of the highly volatile global rice trade,” Arroyo said.
In her lecture, Arroyo also shared her administration’s programs to bring down prices and have a stable supply when faced with the global grain price surge in 2018. Arroyo recalled how her administration imported but from Thailand and Vietnam but did so only “at a low early price,” adding that the government also had ample market clout to defeat and deter speculators.
Arroyo noted how the government “kept ample stocks all the time rather than rushing to import when prices shot up,” and elaborated on how various factors such as weather patterns to market swings could drive up prices and disrupt supply. She also shared how her administration took proactive steps to amp up rice production in the Philippines by enhancing irrigation systems, and providing farming inputs such as seedlings and fertilizer, grain dryers, farm-to-market roads, and other post-harvest facilities.
“These inputs and facilities cut costs and spurred production, especially among farmers who had not bothered producing rice because there was no road to bring it to market,” Arroyo stated.