THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing a shift in rice production to new areas that are considered typhoon-free to avert a further decline in output brought about by man-made and natural causes.
“What’s happening right now is a grim reminder for us to really review our agricultural planning and consider the fact it may no longer be wise for us to really focus our resources alone in the traditional farming areas because of the intensity and frequency of typhoons,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol told reporters.
Central Luzon together with the Bicol Region and Isabela are considered the country’s rice granaries. But in recent years, rice output in these areas has been seriously affected by extreme weather events including long dry spells, heavy rains and strong typhoons and floods.
“If we are really hoping to be able to fill up the gap in our food sufficiency program, we should look elsewhere,” he added.
The DA plans to open up at least 1 million hectares of new areas planted to rice over the next six years, he said. These areas initially identified for rice production include the provinces of Palawan, Samar, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Zamboanga Peninsula.
“Samar is a potential rice production area because of availability of water and availability of land, while the Sockssargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani) area and Davao area, including Zamboanga, has massive potential because these are the areas where there is somewhat a slow acceptance of hybrid seeds technology,” he said.
“Once we are able to convince the farmers to embrace these hybrid rice seeds, we are expecting a spike in the rice production program,” Piñol said.
The DA chief said they were also looking at other unexplored areas, particularly those in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, to contribute to the production of rice.
“I asked people in Sulu and they said given the government support, they will be able to plant rice enough to supply their province and maybe Zamboanga,” he said.
“Basilan also is another potential area and Tawi-Tawi. These are the small pockets where there is no threat of climatic disturbance which we are now exploring,” Piñol added.
The DA chief said they are also employing the help of the Department of National Defense to transform idle or reserved areas in military camps into farms and enable military personnel to produce their own rice.