Ike Señeres .
IT is hard to imagine that an agricultural country would ever import rice, or an archipelagic country would ever import fish. That is not all however, because we are also importing milk and flour. Looking at this from a positive standpoint, we should even be exporting rice, and exporting fish also. In fairness, we are already exporting tuna but whatever pride we have gained by that has already been eroded by our importation of blue mackerel scad (galunggong), also known as round scad. Of course, we could be proud to say that we are also exporting milkfish (bangus), but then again our pride in that is diminished by the fact that we have not really turned it into a global product, because for the most part, it is still mainly who are consuming our exported milkfish. In our case, importing fish is not really new, because we have been importing fish meal as feed ingredients for many years now.
What is even more difficult to imagine is having an agricultural country suffer from widespread hunger, or having an archipelagic country suffer from widespread thirst, possibly brought about my widespread drought or massive contamination? What would be more ironic is if thirst would happen in a country that is always bombarded by heavy rains, and almost always resulting in deeper than deep floods. Of course, as an archipelagic country we have always been surrounded by seas and oceans around us, bodies of seawater that could possibly be the source of fresh water, if only we could overcome our false notions that desalination is too expensive. Using only our common sense, we should be able to realize that it is more expensive to suffer from famine due to lack of irrigation, or thirst due to lack of water.
Backtracking a little bit, we could also say that we are also importing ice creams and cheeses, because we are importing the milk ingredients that are used to make these two products. Applying the same logic, we could also say that we are also importing pork and chicken, because we are importing the feed ingredients that are used to produce the animal feeds that in turn produce the livestock and poultry. Well, I would admit that my own reasoning is partly flawed, because we are actually also importing ice creams, cheeses, pork and chicken as finished goods. Under normal conditions, we could say that there might be nothing wrong with that, but what is gravely wrong is that regardless of whether we are importing the raw materials or the finished goods, we are depriving our local farmers of earnings from our normal day to day consumption.
Now moving forwards in our analysis, we could also say that we are in effect also importing breads and cakes, because we are importing the flours that are used to make these two finished goods. However, we should clarify that to some extent, we are not really importing the flours because in effect we are only importing the wheat grains that are the ingredients in making the flours. For many decades now, we have been made to believe that flours could only be made from wheat grains, and surely that is not really true. The alternative sources are too many to name, but for a start, I would like to name the flour materials that could be grown by anyone anywhere, even in rooftops or flower pots. One group would be root crops, and the other would be crawling plants. One advantage of root crops is that these are not affected by floods and typhoons. The advantage of crawling plants is that these could crawl up anywhere, for example in walls and trees.
No, I am not about to advocate the advocate the banning of rice production, but it is really time to rethink our overall economics of rice production and rice consumption. As I understand it, Israel banned rice production because it consumes too much fresh water, a resource that is scarce there. Instead of planting rice, they planted high value crops such as oranges. Using the money that they earned from oranges, they imported the rice that they need. In reality however, fresh water is no longer scarce in Israel, because they have perfected the science of desalination. Aside from that, they have perfected the sciences of rainwater collection, and water recycling, the two other sources of fresh water. Despite their abundance of fresh water now, they are still not planting rice, and they are still importing rice, using their revenues from exporting fruits.
I have no doubt in my mind that in so many ways than one, the solution to the prevention of hunger and thirst in our country is to support the cooperatives, so that these people’s enterprises could produce not only organic food, but also fresh water. The production of organic food is market niche that is highly promising for the cooperative movement. By going into that field, the coops would not only increase their incomes, they could also increase the life expectancy of their customers as they will be eating healthier food. I think that the key to enabling the coops to produce fresh water is to give them the means to produce renewable energy, using sustainable technologies such as wind and solar. In addition to that, they should be given the rights to distribute water to the last mile, using the water districts as the backbone.