GMA asks Pinoys to eat camote, corn in lieu of rice
President Arroyo yesterday encouraged the Filipino people to eat camote and corn as substitute to the staple rice, which price has substantially increased due to a global crunch in its supply.
In Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, where she went to inaugurate the Sidlakang Negros Village, a newly-constructed livelihood hub that would showcase the talents, skills and world-class products of the province’s residents, Mrs. Arroyo lauded the Negros folk for not only being “rice eaters” but also “corn and camote eaters,” which she said should be emulated by all Filipinos, specially in this time that the Philippines, along with other countries, is experiencing a crisis on rice.
Speaking during an interview with local broadcast media, Mrs. Arroyo said Filipinos must learn to eat alternatives to rice as the whole world is experiencing a shortage in the staple food.
“We do encourage other substitutes for rice now that the whole world is experiencing a shortage,” she said.
At the same time, Mrs. Arroyo assured that the imported rice from the United States that is being sold by the government-owned National Food Authority (NFA) for P25 a kilo in the local market is safe and free from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), which an environmental group say may bring harm to its consumer’s health as scientists have yet to be determine if it is totally “side effect-free.”
The President made the assurance after Greenpeace warned that the rice from the US is not safe for human consumption because it contains GMOs.
Mrs. Arroyo said the rice shipment from the US passed the strict standards set by the World Health Organization, and that the NFA has double-checked its quality.
Meanwhile, the NFA also yesterday announced that it is raising its importation of rice at a May 5 tender to 675,000 metric tons (MT) from an original plan of 500,000 MT of imports after falling short on import requirements during the last tender.
Rice prices have been shooting up due to the increasing import requirements from large- consuming countries led by the Philippines.
The country’s plan to import 2.7 million MT of the grain this year is the biggest for any country.
Analysts said the NFA may have to pay higher than the current $1,000 per MT world price to complete the import requirement.
An April 18 tender for 500,000 MT attracted only 325,750 MT at the price being offered by the government.
The import shortfall highlighted difficulties faced by the government and fellow rice importers in stocking up on the staple cereal amid surging prices that has triggered food riots in some countries.
The NFA said traders told the government agency there was simply no more rice available, but some traders they were willing to sell at higher than the $872.50 to $1,220 per MT offered by the NFA.
“It is because we were not able to get the volume we wanted in the past,” Ludovico Jarina, the deputy administrator of the NFA, said.
Only traders with state guarantees will be able to participate in next month’s tender and Jarina said he expected rice to be sourced from Thailand, Vietnam and even China, as well as other countries.
The global rice crisis began last year with India’s imposition of export curbs to protect domestic supplies. This week, even the United States felt the reverberations, as major retailers started to notice signs of panic buying.
Riots have erupted in Africa and Haiti due to the surging price of fuel and food.
The International Monetary Fund is in talks with governments in 10 countries, mostly in Africa, about boosting aid to cover soaring food prices, a spokesman said.
Sherwin C. Olaes