Rice self-sufficiency goal delayed till 2019

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Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Philippines has pushed back its rice self-sufficiency target to 2019 as funding constraints hamper efforts to increase productivity and areas dedicated to rice.

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At a press briefing at the Department of Agriculture’s main office in Quezon City, Piñol said that the Department of Budget and Management has urged the DA to defer full implementation of the program by next year because any realignment of funds at this time would be subject to scrutiny.

“There’s no budget readily available for this year (2016) to make adjustments or realignment. So, we decided to lay the groundwork first, then move to full implementation of the program starting 2017 and hit rice self sufficiency by 2019,” Piñol told reporters.

But it would still depend on whether Congress would allow the department’s new budget proposal, which has already been submitted to Malacañang for review, he said.

To achieve the rice self-sufficiency goal, Piñol said the DA is proposing a P71-billion budget for 2017, significantly higher than the earlier proposal of P46 billion.

The total budget for next year would include the first tranche of funding needed for the three-year rice program, which would cost the government an estimated P64 billion, he said.

“For the first tranche for the rice program we would need about P31 billion, the main reason why the 2017 budget jacked up. But on the third year, the budget allocation for rice will be lowered to just P18 or P19 billion,” Piñol said.

For 2017, the Agriculture department expects palay (paddy rice) production to reach 18.517 million metric tons, or about 89.62 percent of the total requirement of 20.661 million MT. Production is expected to increase to 20.342 million MT in 2018, or about 96.10 percent of the total projected demand of 21.168 million MT.

“By 2019, we expect to hit rice self-sufficiency,” Piñol said, noting that palay production is expected to be level with the demand at 21.626 million MT by then.

To achieve this, the department aims to increase the average productivity in rice farms by 1 metric ton per hectare over the next three years —from 3.98 MT per hectare in 2017 to about 4.64 MT per hectare by 2019.

Piñol said the DA is ready to subsidize everything from irrigation, utilization of hybrid seeds and farm mechanization to increase productivity.

He said that at least 1 million new areas planted to rice would be opened during his term. This will translate to an additional 4.8 million MT of rice, more than enough to cover the 1.8 million MT rice shortage annually.

He also said the DA is now studying the viability of employing low-cost communal irrigation projects instead of maintaining irrigation facilities that have already deteriorated, in order to lower production cost and make Filipino rice farmers more competitive.

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