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PHL to be rice self-sufficient in 2 years–PBBM

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PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday pronounced that the Philippines will be “close” to achieving its decades-long dream of self-sufficiency in rice in just two years through a “major reorganization” of key bureaucracies.

In a statement, Marcos emphasized that the rice self-sufficiency goal would materialize if the government can “carry out reorganization involving different agencies.”

Marcos made the pronouncement after a meeting at Malacañang with officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

Marcos concurrently serves as the country’s agriculture secretary.

“From that discussion, we have begun to put in the timetable of what are the things that we need to do. And [from our] calculation, if we can do all that we need to do —because there’s a lot we need to fix, a lot to reorganize—but if we can do all of that, we will be close to self-sufficiency for rice in two years,” the Chief Executive said, speaking partly in Filipino.

“There’s a great deal of work to do but now we can see what it is we must do. So that’s what we will work on for now,” he added.

Marcos said the planned reorganization requires “cooperation, convergence and coordination” between key agencies such as the DA, NIA, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“So our next meeting will be that. All concerned agencies are there and we will present the timetable as to what needs to be done, what forms of coordination need to be done,” he said.

Marcos has also approved the adoption of hybrid rice nationwide to boost rice productivity, especially in farms still using inbred varieties.

Marcos met with hybrid rice seed firm SL Agritech Corp., which proposed the adoption of hybrid rice seeds in rice farming areas using certified seeds.

Malacañang said Marcos agreed to implement a program “to promote the shift by providing subsidies and facilitating loan financing to farmers.”

The planting of hybrid rice, Malacañang said, would complement the government’s rice competitiveness enhancement program that seeks to boost rice productivity and income of rice farmers in key palay-producing provinces.

“To complement the RCEF, the government has been implementing strategies to increase rice production, such as convincing irrigators associations (IA) and farmers to plant hybrid rice seeds, adopting alternate wetting and drying as a water-saving technology for irrigated lands, harvesting in September during the wet season, and ratooning after harvesting during the wet season,” it said.

The national government is also keen on accelerating the rate of expanding irrigation infrastructure development in the country.

Malacañang noted that as of December 31, 2021, only 2.04 million hectares (ha), or 65 percent of the country’s potential irrigable area of 3.13 million hectares, had been developed, benefitting around 1.5 million farmers with irrigation.

Malacañang added that NIA is “implementing several measures to develop the Philippine irrigation infrastructure.”

The Philippines’ rice self-sufficiency level in 2021 declined to 81.5 percent from 85 percent in 2020. The last time the Philippines posted 100-percent self-sufficiency in rice was in 1995, a few years before the country acceded to the World Trade Organization and allowed the entry of rice imports through a quota system.

Since 1995, the Philippines has been importing rice and self-sufficiency in the staple was never attained again. The closest year that the Philippines was reaching rice self-sufficiency was in 2013, at 96.8 percent rate.

Image credits: Bloomberg

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