Top importer Philippines hit for wasting rice

The Philippines, one of the world's biggest importers of rice, could go a long way to achieving its elusive goal of self-sufficiency simply by wasting less, a global research institute said.

An average of five cups of steamed rice is cooked daily for every Filipino but nine grammes (three tablespoons) of this is wasted, according to the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute.

These morsels add up to more than 300,000 tonnes a year, or 36 percent of the country's rice imports in 2011, the institute said in a report in its quarterly journal, Rice Today.

"Why buy that much rice for the table when a significant amount is thrown away, taking with it all the nutrients and energy that rice can give," the report said.

"Middle-class families tend to waste more than low-income families. Apparently, the more people have, the more they waste," it said.

The magazine quoted Flordeliza Bordey, an economist at the institute's local counterpart, the state-run Philippine Rice Research Institute, as calling for a nationwide campaign to change Filipinos' wasteful consumption patterns.

"Save rice, save lives," should be the message of the campaign, Bordey said.

The Philippines, with a rapidly growing population approaching 100 million people that uses rice as the staple food, has in recent years become the world's biggest importer of the grain.

Imports peaked at 1.8 million tonnes in 2008 during a global shortage triggered by poor harvests and bad weather.

Successive governments have declared intentions to achieve rice self-sufficiency and failed.

Some of the problems have been poor farming techniques and frequent typhoons that have devastated vital rice-growing areas.

But corruption, in which officials benefit from importing rice, and a lack of decisive government action to feed the country's booming population, are generally regarded as other important factors.

The current administration has announced a target of 2013 to end rice imports, and embarked on a programme to achieve this by introducing high-yielding varieties and better farming techniques.

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