Government urged to focus on main harvest areas
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government must allocate more investments in major rice areas to ensure improved production and strengthen its competitiveness, former Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

Dar, president of InangLupa Movement, said government investments should be focused on the country’s top 10 rice-producing provinces to produce more palay. This should allow the Philippines to compete with neighboring ASEAN countries, he added.

“Much-needed funds should be poured to mechanize rice farming, put up more post-harvest and milling facilities, construct more irrigation systems, and empower small farmers’ groups to be entrepreneurs,” he said.

Data showed that the top 10 rice areas produced 8.96 million metric tons of palay last year, or half of the total harvest of 19.28 million MT.

These areas include Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Tarlac, North Cotabato, Leyte and Negros Occidental.

On top of farm mechanization, Dar said the government should also promote the proper use of hybrid and inbred rice varieties, and water resource conservation technology and practices.

“In particular, farmers should be trained on modern rice production and post-harvest technology, proper fertilization, and agri-entrepreneurship. Government should also provide small farmers affordable credit through the Land Bank of the Philippines,” he said.

The cost of producing palay in the Philippines remains high at P12.72 per kilogram compared with Thailand’s P8.86 per kilo and Vietnam’s P6.22 per kilo.

“Mechanizing rice production and harvest operations contribute greatly in reducing production cost of rice,” Dar said.

At present, the country’s farm mechanization level is 1.23 horsepower per hectare, way below the four hp/ha in South Korea and China.

Dar also urged the government to increase the budgets of the National Irrigation Administration and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management. 

The additional budget will be used by NIA  to construct new national irrigation systems and repair old ones.

“Government should also restructure the National Food Authority into a logistic provider, focusing on maintaining buffer stocks to stabilize rice supply and prices during lean months, and distribute to affected areas during calamities,” Dar said.

“They should campaign to promote higher use of balanced amounts of inorganic and organic fertilizers to produce more rice grains, reduce rice consumption and wastage, and promote other staples,” he added.

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