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.
Despite strong typhoons during the last half of the year, Filipino farmers were able to produce a total of eighteen point forty four million metric tons (18.44 million MT) of palay in 2013.
“The highest ever recorded in Philippine history.”
This was according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala who led the recognition and awarding of top producers of palay via the National Rice Achievers (NRA) awards held at the Newport Performing Arts, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City, on March 14, 2014.
Although three percent short of the 100% rice production target, overall yield was posted at 97% based on a 20.04 million MT target.
Alcala commended the local chief executives of rice-producing provinces, municipalities and cities for continuing to partner with the government in its drive to attain food self-sufficiency. He also expressed his gratitude to farmers and irrigators associations, and agricultural technicians for their invaluable contribution in attaining the historic feat.
“We value your role in ensuring safe, nutritious, affordable, and sufficient supply of food for the Filipino people,” he said.
He also challenged the provincial governors to implement programs that will increase farmers’ production and income.
In addition, he campaigned for the integration of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in rice to improve the quality of palay in preparation for intense domestic and global competition, as well as the use of appropriate modern technologies to boost overall production.
Alcala reiterated President Aquino’s directive on his 2nd State of the Nation Address: “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi na tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-aangkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”
A total of P117.42 million (M) worth of project grants and cash prizes were given out to the 2013 NRA awardees consist of 12 provinces, 48 municipalities, 10 Irrigators’ Associations (IAs), three Small Water Impounding System Associations (SWISAs), and 496 Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs). Each province received P4 M worth of project grant, while municipalities received P1 M worth of project grants. The IAs and SWISAs each received P1 M and P500, 000 respectively, while AEWs were given P20, 000 cash prize each. (Marlo Asis/Oda Rodriguez, DA-AFID)