THERE’S no need to increase rice yields to 6 metric tons (MT) per hectare for the Philippines to become self-sufficient in the next five years, a senior International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) official said.
“I think 6 … is a bit too high target and it’s not necessary … If we can go to about 4.5 … we are already self-sufficient by that point,” IRRI Deputy Director Bruce Tolentino said in a roundtable interview with editors and reporters of The Manila Times.
“You don’t have to be to have a very, very high target,” he added.
With the Philippines rice yields having hit 3.87 MT per hectare last year, Tolentino said: “It’s doable and I think I would say that kind of a target is achievable within the medium term.”
Underscoring the importance of new technologies to ensure the continued sustainability of production, he said Filipino rice farmers should now use climate-resilient crops and other interventions given increased weather-related risks.
“I do believe that Filipino farmers are very technology-friendly, and if we focus on improving yields, I believe we can achieve it,” he said.
“It’s not necessarily higher yield, but at least it’s a loss prevention,” the IRRI official added.
Tolentino also said that it was very important to have consistent programs and investments to attain rice self-sufficiency in the next five years.
“These include irrigation, rural infrastructure, improving seeds, and the local government units must be assisted so that they can extend the technology to farmers,” he said.
Tolentino said that while self-sufficiency was “powerful message” for ordinary Filipinos, other goals could be considered such as ideal yields or even nutritional benefits.
Existing science already allows for higher yields and nutritional values, he noted that the country was lacking in terms of investments in agriculture research and development, and not just in terms of rice.
“I do believe that public budget should also be increased for our other commodities such as coconut, corn, and high-value crops… [T]he investment in the budget of the government should be spread out even in among all of these crops so that the farmers have a choice and they’re not imprisoned by just one crop,” he said.
“You cannot support rice farmers only.”