The Philippines has posted the highest rice yield for the last three to four years among countries composing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), according to International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Deputy Director General Bruce Tolentino.
”The Philippines is the fastest-growing country in terms of yields over the last three to four years. A real record faster than any Asean country,” Tolentino said during IRRI’s & Scidev.net’s Policy Forum on Rice held in Makati City (Metro Manila) late Wednesday.
In 2010, the Philippines was the 8th largest rice producer in the world, accounting for 2.8 percent of global rice production.
Asean also groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
As of 2013, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said the average yield was three metric tons (MT) to four metric tons per hectare. The introduction of new rice varieties capable of yielding anywhere from seven MT to 10 MT per hectare is expected to boost the country’s drive for rice self-sufficiency.
IRRI has been sharing technology with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and PhilRice, which makes crops require less water and fertilizer.
”We can actually say that the DA and Philippine Rice Research Institute are [receiving] high-yielding equipment from IRRI and are [giving them]to farmers,” Tolentino said.
He, however, noted that the distribution process takes time for it to be able to cover all municipalities and farmers who are well-educated on the application of fertilizer.
Tolentino called for liberalization in rice importations, similar to that for corn in 1995.
Although optimistic with the DA’s efforts, he said rice sustainability goals should be set through nutrition.
”The evidence that our fellow Filipinos have been eating well is dependent on the improvement of their health and nutrition,” Tolentino explained.
He said population is a factor in the nation’s food stability, proved through time to mirror the economic progress of the country.
Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia have been reported to have no worries about rice sustainability because they can import the grain any time they want.
”It doesn’t matter if our rice supply comes from another country or here, but whether each citizen can have access to the food they need, at the right quality and if they can use it properly,” Tolentino said.
Each Filipino consumes 120 kilograms of rice a year, he added.