MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) is entering a paradigm shift in many of its programs as it aims to achieve self-sufficiency in major commodities amid the nation’s rapidly increasing population, natural calamities and climate change.
“We are now adopting a policy that the country must strive hard to achieve food sufficiency, especially for our basic and staple food commodities like rice, white corn, meat, poultry, fish and marine products,” Agriculture chief Manny Piñol said.
“Technical papers covering innovations in making the country’s food production program climate change-resilient are now being finalized and will soon be presented to the DA for technical and financial support,” he added.
The newly-installed secretary has designed a program called Rice Productivity Enhancement (RIPE) which calls for a thorough review of the country’s water management and irrigation policies.
It also involves the conduct of a nationwide soil analysis, rice farming technology, introduction of high-yielding rice varieties, soil rehabilitation and fertilizer program and modern harvest and post-harvest facilities to minimize losses.
“It has now become a must that this country has to achieve sufficiency in rice and other basic food commodities. It is no longer just a choice,” he said.
The DA also plans to establish a viable program to produce more white corn to supply the grains requirements of provinces like Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Bohol, Cebu and Leyte, among others.
For the livestock sector, Piñol said the country must develop its feed component supplies and lessen its dependence on imported materials like soya and even fish meal to ensure lower cost of production.
Piñol noted that for a country whose per capita meat consumption increased from 15 to 35 kilos in the past few years, the Philippines sorely lacks a rational livestock and poultry development program to ensure self-sufficiency in these sectors.
Pork, chicken, beef, and ducks are among the other high-value commodities that the Philippines can produce in great volume because of the availability of feed materials--grains, copra meal, fish meal, oyster and seashells, molasses and hay.
To ensure sufficiency of fish and other marine products, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue its anti-illegal fishing drive and the three-month closed season during spawning periods.
“Funding and support for the culture and production of high value fish species, commercial species and other marine products will also be intensified,” Piñol added.
Tuna, shrimps, crabs, and dried fish are high-value products the Philippines could excel in but these sectors have largely been left by government to fend for themselves.
A shift in irrigation is also in the pipeline as the new administration will focus more on small and community-based irrigation projects and introduce solar-powered irrigation facilities in remote villages.
Vegetable production in urban areas using the advanced Israeli greenhouse technology is also being eyed to ensure adequate food supply.
The DA has earmarked P75 million this year for the “Vegetable Gardens in the City” program which will be initially rolled out in Manila, Taguig and Quezon City.
“Backyard vegetable gardening will also be encouraged in rural and urban areas with the department providing technical, financial and marketing support,” Piñol said.
During Pinup’s visit to the Los Baños Science Community recently, SEARCA director Gil Saguiguit Jr., reiterated the organization’s continued support for the agricultural and rural development programs of the government spearheaded by the DA.
Over the years, SEARCA has been providing technical and capability-building assistance to the Philippine government by working with various agencies.
According to Saguiguit, DA’s focus on increasing farm productivity and alleviating poverty among the country’s resource-poor farmers aligned neatly with SEARCA’s agricultural and rural development goals.
Piñol expounded on the government’s thrust to produce the country’s basic commodities in the face of the nation’s rapidly increasing population, which now stands at 105 million. – With Rudy Fernandez