Rice sufficient in three years

RICE sufficiency is not a far-fetched dream for the Philippines after all. In fact it can be attained within three years, but only after the government invests to modernize the industry.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol made the assertions adding that with the needed support and intervention from the government, the country's rice sector could even produce more than what the Philippines needs and could eventually reclaim its old glory as one of the rice exporters in the world.

"In fact, when funded and managed well, the country's rice sector could even produce more than the local demand and could possibly export rice to big consumers like China, the Middle East and the African Continent," said Piñol.

 

Strategies

In line with this, a strategy on how to produce enough rice for the 105-million Filipinos was formulated by the Technical Working Group on Philippine Rice Sufficiency Program headed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) senior scientist Dr. Jauhar Ali.

The paper will be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte during the next scheduled Cabinet meeting.

The strategy, as shared by Sec. Piñol, listed five basic interventions and support needed to achieve rice sufficiency.

 

Hybrid Rice Seeds

First is the introduction and adoption of hybrid rice seeds which is seen to double the current national average production of 4-metric tons per hectare per harvest.

Of the estimated 3.9-million hectares of rice farms all over the country, only 500,000 hectares are planted with hybrid rice seeds which produce an average of 6-metric tons per harvest per hectare.

To further increase the current national average production, an additional area of one million hectares will be planted with hybrid rice seeds in the next three years which theoretically are expected to yield an additional four million metric tons of paddy rice per year.

With a milling recovery of 65%, the added production could yield 2.6-million metric tons of rice which is more than enough to cover the national shortage of 1.8-million metric tons every year.

 

Irrigation

The second intervention is the implementation of a massive small-scale irrigation systems establishment like the recently launched Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) which could be built in just one month and could irrigate between 50 and 100 hectares per set up.

Piñol said that at a growth rate of 1.9% per year, the Philippine population needs an additional irrigated area of 80,000 hectares every year to produce enough rice.

“Last year, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) was only able to irrigate 10,000 hectares and the prospect of providing water to more areas appears bleak because of the long periods required to build big irrigation dams,” stressed Piñol.

 

Fertilization

The next intervention is increased support for fertilization, either organic or inorganic, which is vital in increasing the yield of Filipino rice farmers.

“With the high and prohibitive price of fertilizers in the market, most Filipino farmers use very little soil nutrients and additives resulting in lower yield,” added Piñol.

 

Mechanization

According to data provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), up to 16% of the yield of rice farms is lost because of the absence of post-harvest facilities like harvesters, dryers and storage facilities.

Piñol said this is the reason why a National Farm Mechanization Program must be implemented nationwide to make farming efficient and to prevent post-harvest losses.

“During a forum in the University of the Philippines Los Baños on July 6, 2016, the country's six outstanding rice farmers said they were producing between 8 to 14 metric tons per hectare because they have access to hybrid seeds, sufficient irrigation water, the required soil nutrients and pre-and-post harvest machineries,” he said.

 

Credit facility

Last but not the least intervention is the easy and accessible credit facility for the farmers to be able to respond to the needs for rice production.

“Under the proposed Farmers and Fishermen's Quick Credit Facility which has been proposed to Congress, farmers and fishermen should be provided with access to credit and financing without necessarily going through the rigorous process of filling up voluminous bank documents and submitting collaterals,” Piñol said.

 

Needs Outweigh Cost

For hybrid seeds and fertilization, an allocation of P50-B every year for the next three years will be provided as the roll over capital.

While for farm mechanization, an annual budget of P50-B over the next three years will also be allocated and lastly, for the small irrigation projects, an annual budget of P20-B over the next five years will be provided to achieve the target of irrigating an additional 1-million hectares during the term of President Rody Duterte.

All of these will be extended through non-collateralized lending programs to enable farmers to borrow to buy good seeds, fertilizers and farm inputs.

Piñol noted the farmers are not asking for dole-outs but a credit facility that they could access without having to go through the difficulty of accomplishing tedious bank requirements and could be paid back by the farmers in at least 20 years.

Is the budget being asked huge?

“Maybe. But we have to ask ourselves, do we really like to provide enough food for the Filipino people?” asked Piñol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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