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Two DA programs should  boost  rice production



At  the start  of the new year, Secretary  William Dar  of the Department  of Agriculture (DA)  announced plans  that  are expected to boost  the country’s   rice production .

At  the  center of the program is the distribution of  certified  palay seeds  as early as October last year  for planting  in 947 rice-producing  towns in 57 provinces.  The certified seeds can produce 4.54 million tons of  palay  per  hectare. This is so much more than the traditional yield of 2.13  metric tons per  hectare  produced by Filipino farmers  using their usual  rice varieties.

The  high-yielding  seeds are being distributed free to farmers  nationwide  tilling a  total of one million hectares  of  land,  at   40 kilos of seeds per hectare.  This is forecast  to increase  the national  yield in 2020 by 3 percent   over  2019.

This  program  of developing and distributing  high-yielding  and disease-resistant  varieties  of  rice  is being carried out by the  Philippine Rice Institute. The  amount  of P3 billion is set aside  each  year for the free distribution of certified seeds to farmers  until 2024.

The  DA has another program – farm  mechanization – being  carried out  with the  Philippine Center  for Post-Harvest Development  and  Mechanization.  Under  this program, P5 billion worth  of tractors and other farm equipment  will be distributed  to  qualified  farmers’  cooperatives and associations  as well as  local  government  units.  Mechanization  is  expected  to  reduce production costs  by P4 per kilo from the current average cost  of  P12 per kilo.

Rice  production  by  Philippine  farmers  has  never been able  to meet  the needs of the nation’s consumers, necessitating   the annual importation of hundreds of millions of  tons  from  Vietnam  and Thailand.  The  closest  we got to self-sufficiency  was at the  height  of the  Masagana  99 program of the Marcos  administration.

The needs of the booming Philippine  population  have  far outgrown the production  capacity of Filipino rice  farmers.  In  2018, when inflation hit a high  of 6.7 percent in September, the government  had  to resort  to various measures to stop the zooming market prices and one of these was  the Rice Tariffication  Law.  All quantitative restrictions on rice imports were  lifted; they  were simply  subjected  to  a tariff. The  result  was  massive importation that brought rice prices down. This was good for consumers but  not  for farmers.

This year,  Secretary  Dar hopes,   will be a good year for Philippine agriculture in general, rice production  in particular. The twin programs  of free distribution of high-yielding rice seeds  and  farm mechanization  should  increase local production and  lower costs. We may not yet reach the goal of self-sufficiency  but we should be taking a big step  towards it.


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