The Department of Agriculture called on the rice consuming public today to contribute their share in government’s rice sufficiency and food security campaign by eating only the right amount of rice, leaving no leftovers, and diversifying carbohydrate sources.

Speaking in a press conference following the official kick-off program for the annual commemoration of the National Rice Awareness Month, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala urged rice-eating Filipinos to finish all the rice they put on their plates as reduced wastage means more rice for all.

Data on rice wastage show that each Filipino wastes two tablespoons of cooked rice daily, which, if not wasted, could result in import savings of P6.2 billion and could feed 2.6 million Filipinos in a year.

“Layunin natin na lahat tayo maging “RICEponsible!,” the DA chief said, referring to the theme of this year’s National Rice Awareness Month commemoration, which is a play on the words “rice and “responsible.”

Alcala said it’s high time Filipinos consider eating other staples such as corn and root crops other than rice to ease too much dependence on rice and for better nourishment.

“Huwag po nating sasaraduhan ang ating isipan sa ibang staples,” he said.

It is for this reason, he said, that DA is keen on helping the expansion plans of farmers’ groups such as the Antongalon-Agusan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (AAMPC) that produces cassava flour and other cassava-based products.

Alcala recently visited the facilities of the cooperative in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, where he was informed by AAMPC President Gerardo Mag-isa of the group’s intention to expand its current cassava plantation by up to 100 hectares.  Alcala said Assistant Secretary and concurrent Rice and Corn Program national coordinator Edilberto De Luna will meet with AAMPC officers within the week to work out possible assistance to the cooperative. Support for cassava production is being managed under the corn program.

Alcala said the Department remains focused in attaining total rice self-sufficiency, as part of the government’s food security blueprint called the Food Staples Sufficiency Program.

Thus, in parallel with such demand management measures, Alcala said DA is intensifying its investments in farm mechanization to allow farmers achieve efficiencies from planting and harvesting up to storage through various technologies developed and being promoted by DA-Philmech.

“Sa paggapas pa lang, malaki na ang nasasayang. Sa pagggamit ng combine harvester halimbawa, malaki ang nasa-save imbes na magmano-mano,” the DA chief said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bruce Tolentino, Deputy Director General for Communication and Partnerships at the International Rice Research Institute who was present during the launch, said DA’s campaign to attain rice sufficiency is a sound program, considering the challenges facing major rice exporting countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, which could further reduce the already thin global rice, export market.

“The fact na malapit na tayo sa 100-sufficiency target ni Secretary (Alcala) is amazing by itself considering that we are already 100 million and growing,” said Tolentino, in reference to the 96-percent sufficiency the country posted by end of 2013. “It is already an amazing achievement just to get to this point.”

The National Rice Awareness Month is pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 524 issued on January 5, 2004.

As part of the celebration, rice feeding programs will be held in schools. Brown Rice Day will be observed on November 14, encouraging restaurants to serve brown rice. On Rice Mix Day on November 21, food establishments will serve rice mixed with corn, adlai, camote, or other staples to give it a twist. The culminating activity, Run for Rice on November 29, will seek to inspire the public to live in healthy lifestyle.

The month-long event coincides with the Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) which was created in 1985. PhilRice leads the rice sector this month in committing to help the Philippines reaches its goal of rice self-sufficiency starting this year, heighten public awareness on rice, and resolve issues relating to malnutrition.  (Mac Garcia, DA OSEC)