Despite strong typhoons that ravaged agricultural lands last year, Department of Agriculture Secretary Alcala told about 1,500 farmers that they had produced 18.44 million metric tons of rice, enlisting the Philippines as the fastest growing rice production country in Asia.
Alcala lauded the Central Luzon farmers for helping achieve the highest rice harvest in the Philippine history during the Farmers` Lakbay Palay hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, April 1-4.
The production also made the country 97-percent rice self-sufficient in 2013. Although three-percent short of the 100 percent target, the country, however, registered a 16-percent increase within three years. The country was only 81-percent rice self-sufficient in 2010.
With the rice sector`s performance last year, the agriculture secretary discouraged the public from focusing on the deficit in the 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.
“We have tried hard. Nawa`y [mapahalagan] natin, lalo na sa mga nasa Manila, ang pagpupunyagi nating mga magsasaka. Hindi ho tayo titigil sa 97 percent. Magpupursige pa din tayo para ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito itatanim, dito aanihin (May we, especially the city dwellers, value the efforts of the farmers. We’ll not stop at 97 percent. We’ll work harder so that the rice that we’ll serve on our table will be planted and harvested in the country),” Alcala said.
Alcala, who also unveiled the latest rice technologies, urged the farmers to be receptive of new farming practices as this may help them reduce production cost and make the price of rice more competitive in the market.
“We can`t solve problems such as rice smuggling in an instant. We still have a long way to go to stop rice smuggling. As long as our production cost is high, rice smuggling will always be around,” he said in Filipino.
He said that rice smuggling persists in the country because domestic rice prices are uncompetitive to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.“Production cost in the Philippines is [about P11 a kilo] while in Vietnam, it`s around P6,” he said.
Alcala said that if farmers can peg production cost even at P8, rice smuggling will be minimized.At present, PhilRice is on its second season of implementing Palayabangan: 10-5 challenge, a nationwide farming competition that aims to produce 10 tons/ha yield at only P5 input cost per kilogram of palay.