The Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing the expansion of corn areas to meet the growing requirement of the local livestock and poultry sectors, and make the industry more competitive with advent of free-trade agreements in the Southeast Asian region.
In an interview, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that while local corn production is enough to meet demand of hog growers and poultry raisers, the agriculture department is pushing for corn to be the main crop that can be traded internationally after 2015.
“While we are already self-sufficient [in corn], we are reviewing our production targets because we need to expand corn cultivation areas because the livestock sector is growing, and we need to align it with the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Free-Trade Area [AFTA],” Alcala said.
He said that they want to make the Philippines one of the main exporters of corn in the Southeast Asian region, noting that the country has the capability to produce corn all year round.
“For an instance, we have Malaysia nearby which is still importing corn from the United States . . . if we can only take advantage of the market,” he said.
For 2014, Alcala said that the DA is investing heavily on infrastructure and more postharvest facilities to prepare the corn industry for trade liberalization.
To be globally competitive, the DA chief said that it is imperative to improve the quality of Philippine corn and further reduce its production cost by planting high-yielding, pest-resistant seeds, and using modern machinery and post-harvest facilities.
“We want the corn sector to be fully compliant with international export standards before its allowed to export,” he added.
The Philippines is a signatory to the AFTA, which will take full effect in 2015. The agreement aims to bring down to zero the duties on products coming from Southeast Asian countries.
To date, the country enjoys production surplus as a result of expansion in areas dedicated to corn. However, the government remains adamant in allowing local growers to export their produce, citing the need to stabilize local supply.
At present, the country is exporting only corn silage to South Korea.
To further increase corn output for possible export, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Edilberto de Luna, who serves as the DA national corn program coordinator, said that the department has identified some 300,000 hectares of coconut areas that could be intercropped with corn.
De Luna said the DA National Corn Program is partnering with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to implement the corn-intercropping program.
In the first nine months of the year, domestic corn production rose to 5.92 million metric tons (MT), up by 0.40 percent year-on-year on improved harvest in Northern Mindanao, Soccksargen and Western Visayas.
Production this year is expected to reach 8.2 million MT, up 10 percent from 7.41 million MT in 2012.