National Rice Awareness Month

National Rice Awareness Month is an annual event every November in the Philippines. Abbreviated as NRAM, its activities include programs that raise awareness of the role of rice in the country and the role of farmers in the economy, its responsible consumption, and healthier choices for consumers in terms of rice varieties.

History of rice in the Philippines

For a discussion on cultural significance of rice in the Philippines, see Panagyaman Rice Festival.

Precolonial times. Cultivation of rice is thought to have originated in China. It was sown in the fields of Yangtze Valley about 9,000 years ago while the variety that is attributed to India were cultivated in the Ganges region about 4,000 years ago.

Over the course of several millenia it was brought to other places by traveling farmers and merchants. Rice was introduced to the Philippines by migrants from other lands around 3,400 B.C. The famed rice terraces of Banaue were built by Ifugao people 2,000 BC utilizing wet-land agriculture.

In pre-Hispanic period, rice was a valuable crop. It was hard to grow and there was meager production for it to be made available for the general populace even in areas with large swathes of wetlands such as in the Bicol region. It was accorded high in value and consumed by the elites almost exclusively. However, they and the rest of the society still relied on crops such as yam, taro, and millet as daily staple.

Because it was considered a precious crop, it was also used as a currency that facilitated borrowing. Farmers borrowed seeds or seedlings and they would repay by allocating a portion of the harvest.

Colonial period. The coming of the Spaniards caused significant changes in the way Filipinos grow and consume rice and consequently the culture and tradition surrounding it. They started implementing irrigation programs, opened up lands for agriculture, and spread the use of plowing techniques with the employment of working animals. As a result, rice production increased considerably and it gradually became a staple food.

The Philippines in addition began exporting rice to China starting in the 18th century. Yet agricultural lands shifted to the cultivation of crops such as sugarcane. In reverse, the country began importing rice in 1870 due to lack of advancement in farming techniques, natural disasters, and pests, an economic reality that persists to this day.

During the American occupation, the government continued importing the crop to address shortage of supply particularly in the 1930s. They also improved irrigation systems, selected seeds that were suitable to the environment, and encouraged the use of farm machines to replace manual labor. With the outbreak of war, however, rice became very scarce because its production was halted.

Post-war era. Addressing spells of rice shortages and the drive for food security are some of the concerns in contemporary times. The importance of rice in Filipino diet is such that a meal without it is considered incomplete and thus not a full meal. And the Philippines is one of the top importing countries of the crop, making the country vulnerable to market swings, sudden dips in supply, and surge in prices.

In the 1960s, the so-called Green Revolution began. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) started in 1960 and was established in University of the Philippines Los Baños with funding from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. It introduced rice varieties that had high yield and matured more quickly. The government also founded the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), an agency responsible for rice science and research, by virtue of Executive Order 1061 on November 5, 1985.

History of National Rice Awareness Month

On January 5, 2004, Gloria Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 524 declaring that November as the National Rice Awareness Month. November was chosen as it is the founding month of PhilRice. Furthermore, it coincided with United Nations’ declaration of International Year of Rice in 2004. The decree was meant to spread awareness of the crop, of the goal of country toward self-sufficiency, and of the relation of the crop with incidence of poverty in the country.

National Rice Awareness Month Activities

National Rice Awareness Month is a yearly celebration conducted by the Department of Agriculture and PhilRice. Activities include promotional campaigns in boosting awareness of rice as an important agricultural crop and as a daily staple food in the country. Consumers are also urged to choose local, that is to purchase rice varieties produced by domestic farmers to help sustain their livelihood. Moreover, organizers encourage people to avoid wasting food and to have a balanced diet by being mindful of the portion of rice in their plates and choosing other sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potato.


National Rice Awareness Month Summary

NameNational Rice Awareness Month
CelebrationAgriculture, Food, Rice
Duration1 month
EstablishedJanuary 5, 2004
FounderGloria Macapagal Arroyo
OrganizerDepartment of Agriculture, Philippine Rice Research Institute