The Philippines have been suffering from rice shortage for quite a long time now. The usual solution that the government implements is importing rice from other countries, which is somehow costly and has negative effects to our local farmers.
The incoming DA Secretary Manny Piñol vows to end this shortage and have a rice sufficient country in his term. According to him, as he traveled all over the country by land, he was able to see the huge potential of the country in food production.
He also identified areas such as islands in Leyte, Samar, Mindoro, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Isabela and Cagayan Valley as prospective production areas. He also added that the Island of Mindanao is the most exciting area for rice production, mainly because of its rich soil ad ideal climate.
In his facebook post Piñol enumerated 6 fundamental things that must be done in order to achieve this:
- The department of Agriculture must focus on its basic mandate which is food production and corruption must stop. Funds ad resources must be concentrated on the task of producing food both from land and the sea. All other non-essential projects must be shelved in favour of undertakings which contribute directly to food production and greater income for the farmers and the fisherfolk.
- For rice production to increase, an inventory and review of the capacity of irrigation systems to provide water should be conducted. There is a huge discrepancy between the rate capacity of the irrigation systems and the actual area served. Existing irrigation projects must be rehabilitated or repaired to enable these to hit the rated capacity. There could never be a successful rice production program if there is no sufficient water. Remember, Food Grows Where Water Flows.
- Government money must not be wasted on the mega-irrigation projects which take 10 to 15 years before these are completed, if at all, and focus must now be on cost-effective and environment-friendly small communal irrigation and small water impounding projects. In areas where the water level is shallow, solar-powered or gas-powered water pumps could be used. So many of these huge irrigation projects costing government billions of pesos in foreign loans are not operational until today, some of them already 20 ears in the making.
- Rice farmers, along with other grains farmers and fisherfolk, should be given the all-out support, especially since they are coming from a 7-month-long drought. I am proposing an additional P30 billion calamity assistance to the rice and corn farmers and the fisherfolk to provide them the needed inputs, like seeds, fertilizers and others in the case of the rice and corn farmers. After this “final push,” farmers must be given easy access to financing, seeds, fertilizers and farm inputs.
- An additional 1-million hectares for rice production expansion must be identified and the necessary infrastructure must be provided which would make these productive within one year after these are opened up.
- Most of all, rice farming must be mechanised whenever and wherever this is applicable. Every rice key production area must be provided with tractors, mechanical rice planters ad harvesters. If possible rice processing centers must be established at the farm level to ensure that post-harvest losses are minimized.
Piñol further pointed out why he is confident that the country could achieve rice sufficiency if the above things are accomplished. According to him, the country has about 5.4 hectares of rice farms and two thirds of which is irrigated. The average total yield per hectare is 4 metric tons, which is very low mainly because of the lack of water, certified seeds, fertilizers, inputs and poor planting and harvest facilities. “There are areas like Nueva Ecija where the average of rice harvest is 5.6 metric tons per hectare” he added.
Piñol also said that if the needed water, good seeds, fertilizers, inputs, and mechanized equipment is provided and the average yield is increased to 5-metric tons, that would already be an additional 10-million metric tons of palay. When this is milled, with a recovery of 65%, it would give the country an additional rice supply of 6.5 million metric tons which is far higher than the 1.8 million metric tons shortfall per year. These figures don’t include the target expansion area of 1-million hectares, which in total is a huge additional harvest.
He emphasized that the figures he mentioned are not guesswork, but careful analysis of the potential of the country in rice production.
The incoming DA Secretary stressed that he will not set timetable since the realization of the mission would depend on how fast they can implement the interventions that he have recommended. And with focus and elimination of corruption these things can be accomplished.
Image credit : Fidela Paraiso-Bongat /Manny Piñol