Another record year for rice and corn as PHL marches toward food self-sufficiency PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 26 December 2014 11:28

By CIELITO M. REGANIT

 

2014 is another banner year for Philippine agriculture as rice and corn posted record-high productions despite several typhoons that battered the country late in the year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported Monday.

In a press briefing, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that rice production for the year would reach 18.88 million metric tons (MMT) while corn is at 7.9 MMT.

This represents increases of 2.4 percent and 7 percent, respectively from the 2013 output of the two staples which stood at 18.88 MMT for rice and 7.38 MMT for corn last year.

“It is another record-breaking year for both rice and corn,” Alcala said.

While DA missed its 2014 target of 19.07 MMT for rice due to the late typhoons, he said that the country is on its way to rice self-sufficiency.

The Agriculture chief cited the government’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) as a major factor why farmers are producing more.

FSSP is a 5-year (2011-2016) national program which aims to produce the country’s domestic staple requirements and strengthen national resilience in production of food staples to impact of climate change.

“Interventions introduced by the DA through the FSSP have begun to bear fruit,” Alcala noted.

These include the prepositioning of certified rice seeds in all provinces of the country to mitigate the impact of climate change; the establishment of Rice Processing Centers (RPCs); the introduction of appropriate farm equipments; affordable loan programs for rice farmers; and the propagation of hybrid rice varieties for increased production among others.

Alcala said that the prepositioning of certified rice seeds major production areas had resulted in the immediate replanting of damaged palay during calamities as seeds are readily available.

“Before, it takes about four to six months before rice are replanted after a typhoon. With prepositioning, replanting could be done within a month after the typhoon resulting in the immediate replacement of damaged crops.

This way, losses in production is minimized,” he said.A case in point is Region 8 which bore the brunt of Typhoon Yolanda in November 8, 2013.

“The immediate recovery of rice farms in Yolanda-hit areas was made possible due to DA-initiated interventions. The whole region had just harvested their second cropping season,” Alcala emphasized.

Meanwhile, establishing RPCs in major rice production areas with no efficient rice milling facilities have also maximized farmers’ incomes.

He noted that ordinary rice processing has only a 50 – 58 percent recovery rate while RPCs have a recovery rate of 65-68 percent.

There are currently 20 RPCs operating nationwide, bringing in additional income to farmers in their areas of operation.

Each RPC is equipped with five mechanical dryers, multi-pass state-of-the-art milling facility equipped with color sorter, length grader and automatic bagger.

“We aim to establish more RPCs in 2015,” Alcala said.The DA is also expanding FSSP’s credit component for rice farmers - dubbed “Sikat Saka”- in partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines.

From 25 provinces, Alcala said they will add another 20 provinces to the program.

“Through Sikat Saka, rice farmers could borrow up to P42,000 per hectare if they plant hybrid rice, or P37,000 per hectare if they produce inbred rice,” he said.

Alcala said that they are putting emphasis on hybrid rice production because of higher yield potentials.

He said that while the national average yield for rice is at 3.89 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha.), hybrid rice could reach as much as 6-7 MT/ha.

The DA is now in the process of testing the adaptability of a “dream super rice” that is developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

Alcala explained that the super dream rice is a single stock that is resistant to drought, floodings, pest and other climate changes.

“It is being tested in all DA stations nationwide. Results are coming up positive with average yield going at 5 MT/ha which is above the national average yield,” he said.

For corn, the Philippines is already 103 percent sufficient in terms of feed stock, the Agriculture chief reported as he noted the surplus in production for several years now.

“We are already exporting corn sillage to other Asian countries, particularly South Korea,” Alcala said.

Last September, the Philippines exported 14,000 MT of feed stock to Busan, South Korea with more exports seen in 2015.

The DA, through its National Corn program, has also established several corn mills in areas whose majority population rely on corn grits as staple.

The launching of the Sustainable Corn Production in Sloping Areas program in Quirino, Isabela would likewise further enhance production of the staple in order to meet rising demands in the local and international market.

“The sure supply of corn for feeds had invigorated our poultry sector. A lot of local investors have been asking for additional incentives for expansion. Foreign investors are likewise coming in because of it (corn supply). Of course, the Philippines also remain free from bird flu,” Alcala said.

He said that by 2015, corn would emerge as the Philippines’ champion crop because of the government’s farm mechanization program and seed banking initiatives.

“The Philippines is already on the verge of corn self-sufficiency, and it is a big boost that corn now can be harvested for the whole year because of modern post-harvest facilities like the corn-in-a-cob dryer,” Alcala said.

Lastly, he stressed that all programs of the DA are now putting emphasis on marketing and value-adding, the major factors needed by our farmers to thrive in the upcoming ASEAN economic integration.

“The major impact of all the programs that we have instituted in 2014 and prior to it would be felt next year and beyond,” he said.

“All in all, 2014 is a banner year, but 2015 would be better for the agriculture sector. We will achieved what we have set out to do come 2016. Food sufficiency is at hand,” Alcala said.