The Department of Agriculture has recognized the contribution of provincial, municipal and city governments toward the attainment of food sufficiency.
Along with the local governments, different Irrigators’ and Small Water Impounding System Associations (IAs and SWISAs), Agricultural extension workers and local farmer technicians were acknowledged for their outstanding delivery of service to Philippine agriculture.
The DA, thru the Agri-Pinoy Rice Program, awarded over P55 million in prizes to 5 provinces, 16 municipalities and cities, five IAs, three SWISAs, 398 agricultural extension workers (AEWs), and 83 local farmer technicians (LFTs) during the Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards held on April 20 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, Pasay City.
The top provinces awarded were Ilocos Norte, Nueva Vizcaya, Occidental Mindoro, Davao del Norte, and Davao Oriental. Each received a trophy and check worth P4 million to be used for rice-related projects. The awards were personally handed over by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
La Union, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Leyte, Bukidnon and Lanao Del Norte provincial governments each received a trophy and check worth P500,000 for being included in the shortlist of outstanding provinces, and also for their hard work and efforts in improving local rice production.
Top municipalities and cities, as well as exceptional IAs, received P1M worth of project grants each. Outstanding SWISAs each received P500,000 in project grants, while selected AEWs and LFTs took home a cash incentive of P20,000 each.
“Despite the prevailing effects of the El Niño phenomenon and the onslaught of typhoons Lando and Nona, the Philippine rice industry still managed to produce 18.15 million metric tons (MT) yield in 2015,” Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Edilberto de Luna said.
“We are able to improve production and steadily increase farm income because of the diligence and passion of our farmers and partners in the local government,” he said.
“If not for them, the harvest may be of low quality with lower yields,” de Luna added.
Nueva Ecija, a “Hall of Famer” province for having won the Award three times already, used their cash prize to further expand production. Aside from institutionalizing a farmers’ loan system, some of the cash prize was invested in the hybrid rice production program of the province, including research and development initiatives for improved production.
The Nueva Ecija provincial government also used the fund to maintain the implements that they have acquired in 2013.
“We are also planning to acquire and set-up a mobile soil laboratory so we can bring our services closer to the people and help them determine the best planting locations,” Nueva Ecija Provincial Agriculturist Serafin Santos said.
Other “Hall of Famer” provinces in the APRAA include Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Bulacan, Occidental Mindoro, and Davao del Sur.
The 2015 APRAA awardees were selected based on their incremental increases in rice harvest and average yield per hectare over 2015 levels, amount of budget devoted to rice projects and initiatives, number of farmers benefited, and degree of quality seed utilization, among others.
Agriculture Secretary Alcala expressed satisfaction over the steady transformation of the image of the Filipino farmers.
Alcala added that the government has slowly changed the usual image of Filipino farmers depicted in textbooks—wallowing in the drudgery of pulling his stubborn carabao in the field.
“This time, the image of Filipino farmers is one that uses modern technology and mechanization,” he explained.
Alcala considers farmers and farm workers at the local government level to be modern day heroes responsible for assuring the country’s food security.
Despite the onslaught of natural calamities that hit the country in recent years, the Philippines has recorded a gain of 2.8 percent in rice production from 2010 to 2015.
Under the Aquino administration, and with the combined efforts of hardworking farmers, local government units (LGUs), and DA, the country’s rice production in the past five years consistently surpassed 18 million metric tons, the DA said.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grains Authority, the Philippines posted the highest increment of harvest among rice producing countries in the world for the past five years.
The DA chief recognized the hardworking farmers for their efforts, which led the country to attain the highest recorded rice harvest in Philippine history.
“With the challenges and problems that go along with rice production, the extraordinary cooperation and support given by the farmers and LGUs have contributed greatly to the attainment of the 97 percent rice self-sufficiency level of the country,” Alcala said.