Government still eyeing rice self-sufficiency


Despite setbacks caused by typhoons to the farm sector, the Department of Agriculture (DA) remains committed in its mission to provide safe and sufficient rice supply for the Filipino people.

“We target to be self-sufficient [in rice]next year, and strengthen national production in the years to come,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said in his keynote speech during the First National Grains Traders, Wholesalers and Retailers Conference.

Alcala also urged stakeholders to help the government in consolidating information and ideas, and come up with a mechanism that will strengthen and uplift the national rice sector.

“This event served as a venue for rice entrepreneurs to meet with farmers’ organizations and rice experts and discuss possible collaborations to meet the target of the food sufficiency program of the government,” he said.

Besides conferring with rice stakeholders, the Alcala said the agency will continue to set up interventions to attain its key target of raising farm productivity, managing food staple consumption and enhancing economic incentives.

The government support measures include the expansion of irrigation services and the promotion of high-quality seeds, as well as an intensified price support program, provision of credit facilities and crop insurance.

The government earlier said that it would not achieve rice self-sufficiency by end of the year due to the “overwhelming” devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda to the country’s agriculture sector.

This year alone, 25 typhoons entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Agriculture Undersecretary Dante Delima, who is also the National Rice Program (NRP) coordinator, said that the Philippines would only reach 95-percent to 97-percent sufficiency level this year.

Based on the latest estimates of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country would need to produce some 19.03 million metric (MT) tons of rice to meet per capita rice consumption of 114 kilograms per year, and 90-day buffer stock under the Food Staple Sufficiency Program (FSSP).

“Under FSSP, we can still meet the demand, but we will not be able to attain the 90-day buffer target. At the very least, we can meet supply requirement but with only 50-day buffer,” he noted.

The official also said that growth rate in the rice sector will be at the same level from year’s production. In 2012, the Philippines produced some 18.03 million MT of rice.

The DA is pushing for the FSSP to boost domestic rice production in keeping pace with the rice requirements of the country’s growing population.

The key target of the program is to produce the country’s requirement by 2013. Beyond 2013, the aim is to strengthen national production resilient to climate change.

Key interventions
Among the key interventions of the program, include the raising of farm productivity and competitiveness through expansion of irrigation services, use of suitable high-quality seed and other farm inputs, sustain research and development, promotion of on-farm mechanization to improve farm efficiency, extension services; and enhance economic incentives and enabling mechanism through enhancement of price support programs, provision of credit facilities to small farmers, and crop insurance.

“Private sector participation is vital in achieving the goals of the program. Thus, this conference is also aimed at strengthening public and private partnership by directly identifying the support activities to the Food Staples Sufficiency Program of the different rice industry sectors namely: wholesalers, retailers and farmers,” Delima said.

The government, under FSSP, also aims to manage food staples consumption through diversified food staple consumption, consumption of brown rice, and reduction of food wastage.

Delima said that the DA is continuing to promote the consumption of alternative staples such as cassava, saba (cardaba banana) and brown rice, and reduce food wastage. He also said that the NRP is now looking at reviewing the FSSP target to further increase buffer stocks to 120 days, from the current 90-day requirement.

“We want to revise the FSSP for the next three years. We need to adopt the targets to this phenomenon [climate change], which is the ‘new normal’,” he said.


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