LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA -- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he is proposing a P62-billion program to help achieve 100% rice-self-sufficiency in the next two years.
“For the next four cropping seasons, I have asked the national government to provide a support fund of P62 billion,” Mr. Piñol said Wednesday at the rice sector stakeholder’s meeting held at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, adding that he has presented the budget proposal to the government’s economic cluster which met on Tuesday.
Mr. Piñol said the funds will support interventions in the areas of fertilizer, seeds, and insurance.
“We project that we will be able to reduce the rice shortage of the country to the point that by the end of 2018 we will be 100% self-sufficient,” added Mr. Piñol.
The P62 billion is expected to start being appropriated for the next planting season which stretches from September to April, according to Mr. Piñol. For this dry season cropping, the agency is targeting to plant rice on some 830,000 hectares.
For this year, the DA still has P17 billion worth of undisbursed funds from 2016, according to Mr. Piñol.
The agency is drawing up targets for rice production per region which will be finalized in the next few weeks.
The head of the economic cluster, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, however, said that an interagency review of Mr. Piñol’s proposal is needed.
“The details were scanty. He said he needed this money but how is it going to be produced. Is it a loan? Is it a grant for farmers? What is it, I really don’t know yet,” said Mr. Dominguez in a phone interview over the holiday.
“He just had a brief presentation, obviously we have to go through his proposal in detail. So the NEDA [National Economic Development Authority], together with the DoF [Department of Finance] and the Office of the President will go through it,” added Mr. Dominguez, himself a former Agriculture Secretary.
Mr. Piñol, he said, pins his hopes on achieving rice self-sufficiency on some farmers currently achieving yields of more than 16 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha) or four times the average yield of 4 MT/ha, by cultivating hybrid rice.
Earlier, the DA pronounced plans to boost by a million hectares the country’s total hybrid rice hectarage by 2020. At present, hybrid rice seed is planted to some 400,000 ha.
Sought for comment, Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of SL Agritech Corp., the country’s leading hybrid rice producer, expressed optimism for the government’s support for hybrid rice.
“We welcome the government’s support for our hybrid rice production,” Mr. Lim told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of a visit to the International Rice Research Institute.