TRENDS IN NEGROS ORIENTAL
Julhusin B. Jalisan
Negros Oriental, endowed with a healthy agricultural climate, is haven to skillful and hardworking farmers who for ages have nurtured and enriched the province's soil, giving birth to a paradise of abounding farm and plantation. With agriculture as the lifeblood of its economy, about 56 percent of its total land area have been cultivated as agricultural lands, with approximately five percent are utilized for the production of palay (Provincial Development and Investment Plan, 2002).
Through struggling years of treading the land with ardor and dedication borne out of the farmers' intensive labor, rice production remains the key source of livelihood and sustenance of its constituents, especially the rural folks who are fundamentally dependent on agronomic yield.
While the province of Negros Oriental has not experienced any acute food shortage, one of the concerns of the policy-makers has been to attain sufficiency in food supply particularly rice. However, it has been observed that the rice industry has not been able to effectively tap its potentials and meet the increasing demands of the growing population. This inability to effectively close the gap between the demand for all supply of rice has been the reason for resorting to importation.
Considering the above premises, there is therefore a need for a study on the prevailing conditions of rice production in the province.
Review of Related Literature and Studies
The touchstone thinking on the adequacy of the food supply goes back to the time of Malthus, a British economist of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (1766-1843). Malthus observed that food resources increase by the process of addition -- that is, by arithmetic progression -- but that population increases by multiplication, or in geometric progression. He further observed that population inevitably increases up to the limits of subsistence. This led him to conclude that the pressure of overcrowding populations upon which the means of subsistence must ultimately bring misery and degradation (Hughes 8).
Current trends seem to support the Malthusian theory. It can be seen from here that despite with the great strides in science and technology, the world has reached the age where population growth has outpaced food production. The Agriculture Magazine, in its September 1998 issue, reported that millions of people in the least developed nations go hungry each day because population is growing at 2.8 percent a year. If they continue to grow at this rate, their population will double in 24 years.
Role of the National Food Authority
At the heart of the country's food security policies is the National Food Authority (NFA). But with the way the food agency has performed in the past, there is clearly a need for the government policymakers to rethink the role of this institution.
In a study conducted by the Congressional Planning and Budget Office (CPBO), the following findings have been unveiled as among the basic weaknesses of the NFA's programs (Debuque, Aug. 25, 1999):
Greater benefits to rice consumers rather than palay farmers. Data from 1992 to 1996 reveal that farmers get only eight percent of NFA subsidies compared to about 92 percent received by consumers.
Inability to influence farm gate prices. Statistics show that despite the NFA's paddy procurement in the years 1995 to 1998, its support prices fell below actual palay prices. The support price was fixed at P8.00 per kilo in 1996 while farm gate prices averaged at P8.20 per kilo.
Low and declining buying levels. From 1975 to 1996, the NFA procured a yearly average of just five percent of total palay production, and was able to exceed its target procurement level only in 1990.
Persistent delays in procurement. The NFA usually buys one or two months after the...