Food Security

Tue. 30 of March of 2010, 00:01h
Ministro-do-Turismo-Comercio-e-Industria_Gil-Alves 03

Since rice is much-needed by the population it constitutes a priceless good in Timor-Leste. As the basis for nourishment of the population, rice is a precious good in Timor-Leste.

Since the inauguration of the IV Constitutional Government lack of instability due to shortage of food has not taken place due to the direct intervention policy adopted by the government. Until August 2007 the price of rice reached very high marks making it difficult for the most-needy population to access it.

Facing this reality, the Government decided to act in a two-track approach: ensuring food security and also bringing down the price through a mechanism of Government subsidy.

“There is certainly internal capacity problem due to diminish capacity to manage the warehouse and distribute the stock, but this is the reality which we have to face, a reality in tune with the lelve of development of Timor-Leste. So since August 2007 there hasn’t been food instability. Since this Government took office food instability never happened again because we always managed to anticipate and ensure that the basic necessities of the country are satisfied. Gil Alves reminds us of the situation that we were faced before in 2006: “there was also a crisis because of the lack of rice”. There were break-ins and disturbances o the Goverment warehouses, because of the rice shortage in the market.”

After this intervention by the Government, in 2007, the price of rice, which was at USD$19 for each 35 Kg sack, came down to USD$12. “And with the increase in the price of rice, in 2008, our intervention was even more justified” explained Minister Gil Alves.

Overall, the Government subsidizes more than 60 per cent of each sack of rice. “In Dili alone, without counting transport costs, each sack of rice would cost around 25 dollars. At the moment the Government is making a huge budget effort to ensure our people have access to rice.”.

Reducing the external dependency

“The most effective way to overcome this problem is to increase domestic production. From 2008 to 2009, the purchase of locally produced rice by the Government increased significantly. In 2008 we were only able to buy 700 tonnes, whilst in 2009 we bought rice, already clean, around 2.000 (two thousand) tonnes, more than double. Even so this was not enough. When we reach the level of domestic production sufficient to respond to our national needs, with excess of production, and when the people’s purchasing capacity increases, then we can start to phase-out government intervention in this area. If we continue to depend on import of rice and the people’s buying capacity continues to be low, our intervention is really necessary, to avoid crises like the one in 2006.”