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Jan.-June palay yield moves PHL closer toward rice self-sufficiency

Gma Network - 05 July 2012

Philippine palay production in the first six months is expected at 7.875 million metric tons, indicating the country is on the way toward self-sufficiency, Malacañang and the Department of Agriculture said Thursday.

“According to (DA Secretary) Proceso Alcala, we no longer need to import rice because we will become rice self-sufficient by then,” President Benigno Aquino III said in a speech at the Makina-Saka 2012, an agriculture trade event on farm mechanization at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

“In 2013, if we are fortunate to not be hit hard by typhoons, it looks like we won’t just be self-sufficient, we will also be the ones to export rice,” he added.

Unlike in the past when the country recorded a 1.3-million-metric-ton shortage but imported 2.47 million MT, the government last year imported only 850,000 MT and only 500,000 MT this year, Aquino noted.

The country’s palay production for the year’s first semester may reduce rice imports to 100,000  MT in 2013 and may make the Philippines self-sufficient in rice, said the DA.

In exchange for lower imports, the National Food Authority (NFA) will be tasked to buy more palay from farmers to stabilize local prices and prevent traders from preying on farmers, according to the department.

Record breaking harvest

Alcala said the country expects another record-breaking harvest brought about by intervention measures implemented by the department to prop up rice production.

“We will be able to break the record harvest in the first semester last year,” he said. Alcala noted that standing crops in the second quarter standing looks promising and would compensate for the previous quarter’s slight dip in output.

Palay output for the second quarter will be buffered by major palay-producing provinces such as Cagayan and Central Luzon.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary and Rice Program director Dante Delima attributed the expected robust output to good weather conditions this year.

Alcala presented the DA’s Food Staples Sufficiency Policy to Aquino during the Makina Saka, noting that the country is on schedule to attaining rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

Through the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the country would also no longer need to import corn, cassava and other fruits and vegetables in the coming years, the President said.

To ensure the success of the program, he said government allotted P1 billion for the procurement of at least 2,300 units of postharvest machinery and other equipment in 2011.

This year, some P2.6 billion was allotted to the buy 7,000 agricultural machines that would be distributed to farmers’ groups and local government units.

The Philippines targets to produce as much as 18.46 million MT of rice in 2012, according to the DA. Rice output in the first quarter of the year posted a slower growth of 3.99 million MT, up by 1.12 percent from 4.03 million MT a year earlier.

Rice importation, meanwhile, was greatly reduced to 500,000 MT, from an all-time high of 2.4 million MT in 2010.

Aquino said government would invest on rehabilitation and repair of irrigation systems and push for stronger agricultural research and development. He also urged the private sector to continue helping the agriculture sector. — With Gian Geronimo/VS, GMA News
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