Agri chief expects bumper crop harvest

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Banking on mere visual appreciation, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he expects a bumper harvest this season after several visits to major planting areas nationwide.

While the Agri chief has yet to provide exact target figures as to the volume of harvest, Piñol said the first quarter crops output was positive.

“The way I see it, I am upbeat that we will have a bumper harvest this year considering that we didn’t have any major typhoon, no rat infestation or  outbreak of (rice) diseases,” he said.

Piñol’s optimism stems from his recent visits to Central Mindanao, Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Quezon and Bicol as well as favorable reports from Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley.

Local farmers have started to harvest their crops this month.

The Philippine Statistics Authority earlier said the country’s production of major crops palay (unhusked rice) and corn is expected to significantly improve in the first half due to increased area harvested and enough water supply following the end of the dry spell.

The expected bumper harvest this quarter is also the reason why Piñol is opposing the planned 250,000 metric tons (MT) rice imports.

“If we will import now, that will work against the interest of the Filipino rice farmers. I am not against importation because there is a need to do that but not now,” Piñol said.

“If we will import to beef up buffer stock, why not buy the local produce? And if later on it is still not enough, then we push through with the importation. But if the intention is to beef up the country’s buffer stock then the best thing to do and the most unexpensive thing to do is buy the production of the farmers,” he said.

Piñol will once again sit in at the interagency National Food Authority (NFA) Council that decides on the country’s rice importation following the approval from Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco.

“I’ve already talked to Secretary Evasco and I’ve sent my letter of intent (to join). I will be attending the next council meeting,” he said.

“We have to coordinate our efforts and provide inputs to them especially on the issue of importation. I will present my position to the NFA council but I’m just one voice in the council and I may be overruled,” Piñol added.

The DA used to be part of the Council but was excluded in mid-2014 when the NFA was removed under the umbrella of the DA and was transferred to the Office of the President.

Apart from the NFA, the council is composed of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines, Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry and the National Economic and Development Authority.

EMMANUEL PIñOL
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