In line with the government’s rice self-sufficiency program, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is now pushing for the expansion of harvested areas nationwide to achieve a total of 60 million metric tons of palay production over the next three years.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Edilberto de Luna said that they are aiming to produce more than 59.678 million MT of palay from 2014 to 2016 under the DA’s Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program.
“To achieve our self-sufficiency targets, Secretary (Proceso) Alcala has mandated the National Rice Program to expand the area planted to rice, and increase the yield per hectare,” said de Luna, who is also the concurrent National Rice Program director.
In 2013, the Philippines had its highest rice production in its history at 18.44 metric tons of palay. Areas covered by rice last year reached 4,746,082 hectares with a yield of 3.89 MT per hectare.
This year, the DA is aiming at 19,070,249 MT of harvest from 4,829,420 hectares, with an average output of 3.95 MT per hectare.
“For 2015, the DA will pursue 20,089,172 MT of rice from 4,918,672 hectare, at a rate of 4.08 MT per hectare; while for 2016 we are targeting a yield of 4.15 MT per hectare, which represents 20,519,258 MT from 4,945,439 hectares,” de Luna said.
The official said that they are banking on Region 3, the country’s rice granary, to continue to be the leading rice producing region. For this year alone, Central Luzon is expected to produce 3,524,558 MT of rice; 3,758,938 MT in 2015; and 3,822,968 MT in 2016.
Central Luzon will be followed by the Cagayan Valley, which is anticipated to produce 2,504,984 MT of rice this year; 2,703,620 MT next year; and 2,770,427 MT the following year.
Rice is a commodity that has direct links to food security, livelihood security and rural development needs of millions in developing countries like the Philippines.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala earlier said that it is important for the country to achieve self-sufficiency in major staples such as rice, corn and cassava to ensure food supply and reduce reliance on imports.
However, farmers’ negative views on the use of high-yielding rice varieties remains one of the biggest factors in achieving sufficiency levels, Alcala added.
Unlike in the corn industry where farmers are more open for the use of high-yielding and disease-tolerant varieties, many palay farmers have yet to fully embrace of technological advancements in rice production.
Earlier, de Luna claimed that local corn production has already reached self-sufficiency level as of last year, based on market demand.
“We have actually met the self-sufficiency levels for corn of the local feed and livestock industry. But the real test for self-sufficiency also requires a one month buffer stock and this small margin we hope to achieve very soon,” said de Luna, who is also the National Corn Program coordinator.
He noted that corn production has grown from 3.4 MT per hectare to 4.2 MT per hectare in the past few years due mainly to better, more high-yielding seeds and new technology.
Corn is the country’s second most important crop next to rice, and serves as main staple of 14 million Filipinos.
Amid debates on whether the Philippines can still attain rice self-sufficiency, scientists at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) encouraged Filipino rice farmers adopt new rice varieties that are capable of yields from 7 to 10 metric tons per hectare, compared to the current average of 3 MT to 4 MT per hectare.
As a result of extensive research, development, and field-testing by PhilRice, three of the four new varieties could be direct-seeded, or the seeds planted on the field, which also results in savings of labor and production costs. Most modern rice varieties are traditionally transplanted, or the seedlings are grown in another area for eventual transplanting in the field when the seedlings are matured.
The four new rice varieties are called Tubigan 23, Tubigan 24, Tubigan 25, and Japonica 3, and have been registered with the National Seed Industry Council.