Wasteful rice consumption costs us $210 million yearly – PhilRice

By Rudy A. Fernandez – The Philippines can save as much as $210 million per year if Filipinos can do away with their wasteful ways of eating cooked rice.

Each Filipino wastes three tablespoons of cooked rice everyday, according to the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice).

PhilRice, whose central experiment station and main offices are situated in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, is DA’s rice research arm. It was established in 1985 primarily to develop high-yielding rice varieties and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

“If rice is not wasted, import savings can reach up to P9.63 billion,” said Executive Director Ronilo Beronio, the third to serve as the institute’s top official. The first executive director was Dr. Santiago R. Obien, followed by Dr. Leocadio S. Sebastian.

“This waste, on the aggregate scale, easily translates into 480,000 tons of raw rice per year. Given a per capita consumption of 112 kilos per year, this wastage can feed 4.3 million hungry Filipinos in a year,” said Beronio, the first employee of the institute when it was established in 1985.

As part of the government’s campaign to save rice, PhilRice encourages Filipino households to cook rice just enough for the family and not to over wash rice before cooking it to cut wastage and control loss of nutrients.

Statistics show that Filipinos are eating more rice.

This, in the face of shrinking farmlands set against the grim backdrop of an exploding population, makes the goal of attaining self-sufficiency in rice very difficult.

The Aquino administration is aiming to realize self-sufficiency in rice in three years.

In 2001, per capita rice consumption was placed at 106 kg/yr. In 2004, it was recorded at 109 kg/yr and projected to reach 115 kg/yr by 2005.

Some published reports state that the current per capita consumption is much more.

This makes the Philippines one of the world’s biggest rice-consuming countries, according to statistics compiled by the Asia Rice Foundation (ARF). It is also at present the world’s biggest rice importer.

Myanmar is the biggest rice-eating country, 195 kg/yr; followed by Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 160 kg/yr.

In great contrast, according to ARF, the average European consumes three kilograms of rice per annum while the America eats 7 kg/yr.

On the other hand, although rice production in the Philippines has consistently increased over the years, in fact chalking up a record 7.3 percent increase in 2004, demand continues to outstrip supply because of the rapid population growth. There are now more than 90 million Filipinos today.

Meanwhile, PhilRice is promoting November as National Rice Awareness Month with the theme “weRice”.

“weRice” encourages the rice-eating public to rise from conserving rice, better nutrition through brown rice, and with increased income from rice farming.

“This is congruent with the goals of PhilRice’s corporate strategic plan which are attaining and sustaining rice self-sufficiency and reducing poverty and malnutrition,” Beronio said.

The institute, which will celebrate its silver anniversary on Nov. 3-5, recently elevated its responsibilities by adopting “Rice Science for Development (S4D)” as its battle cry in promoting development in the countryside.

With S4D as the rallying call for five to 10 years, PhilRice crafted its medium and long-term corporate plan focusing on helping to attain and sustain rice self-sufficiency, reducing poverty and malnutrition, and achieving competitiveness in agricultural science and technology.

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