The Department of Agriculture (DA) has inaugurated a P32.2-million rice-processing center (RPC) in Ambalgan, Santo Niño in South Cotabato province as part of the government’s commitment to provide high quality rice to the Filipino people.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala stressed that improving the quality of local rice through the provision of grain processing and storage facilities were part of the priorities of the administration.
Once fully operational, the RPC to be managed by the Firmus Farm Service Cooperative will benefit more than 5,000 farmers. Its target areas cover 10,000 hectares of rice farms in Santo Nino, as well as other rice-producing municipalities nearby.
The Ambalgan RPC would also give farmers’ access to post-harvest facilities during bad weather conditions, Alcala said.
To enable a more satisfactory operation and allow the users to import their rice products, the DA committed additional components including a rice sorter, a packing machine and a delivery truck unit.
“These efforts seek to improve the rice sector amidst negative issues on rice smuggling which the government is extensively investigating,” the DA chief said.
In earlier interviews, Alcala stressed that department has been firmly upholding the Agriculture Tarrification Act, which imposes import restrictions on farm products.
“For as long as the act is in effect, rice traders need to obtain permits from the National Food Authority [NFA] before shipping rice into the country or else these shipments would be considered as smuggled and seized upon arrival,” he added.
Alcala also said that despite the failure to reach 100-percent sufficiency, the rice sector has risen from 82 percent in 2010 to 97-percent sufficiency as of last year.
He explained that the target was not achieved because of the varied weather conditions that affected harvesting in the last quarter of the year.
However, he assured that the country has sufficient rice stocks on the market and in NFA warehouses.