Government eyes 97% rice self-sufficiency this year
The government is targetting to achieve a 97 percent self-sufficiency in rice this year with projected palay production of 155 million metric tons (MT).
"We are getting closer to meeting our goal of being self-sufficient in rice and we can do this through a number of interventions to ensure programs meant to achieve our goals will be successful," said Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. in his speech during the Rice Industry Summit held at the PICC last Friday.
In his presentation before President Arroyo, Lorenzo said that barring natural calamities, palay production this year will exceed last year's yield of 13.5 million MT by intensifying the GMA Rice Program.
If this year's full-year target is met, the production shortfall is only about 480,000 MT based on the country's requirement of 15.48 million MT.
However, government will still import about 810,000 Mf of rice. This will be used to beef up the national rice reserves of the National Food Authority.
For the first semester, the DA is projecting palay production to reach 5.91 million MT, up by 10 percent during the same period last year. Lorenzo said this year's target can be achieved by using better and higher-yielding hybrid and certified seeds.
Under GMA's rice program, about 400,000 hectares will be planted to hybrid and certified rice seeds with 100,000 and 300,000 hectares targeted for planting in the dry season or from November 2003 toApri12004.
For the wet season or from May-October 2004, the program coverage will be expanded to 550,00 hectares, of which 200,000 hectares will be planted to hybrid and 350,000 hectares to certified seeds.
By 2005, the program's coverage will further increase to P650,000 hectares wherein 400,000 hectares will be planted to hybrid and 250,000 hectares to certified seeds.
The DA is encouraging farmers to switch to hybrid and certified seeds to increase their farm yields and productivity.
As a result, more farmers are shifting to hybrid cultivars, increasing the hybrid area from only 5,742 hectares in early 2001 to almost 100,000 hectares this year.
Francisco Malabanan, director of GMA rice program, said that for this year, the program will require a budget of Pl.49 billion.
"We are hoping that full funding support will be extended because we need to distribute the seeds and other farm inputs to the farmers before the start of the next planting season which starts in May," said Malabanan.
Malabanan also assured that the program's goals are achievable despite the water crisis already being experienced in Luzon.
"The crisis has little impact on our program because the crop has already been planted and will be harvested by March," said Malabanan.
Agriculture analysts said that aside from favorable weather, the bigger factor needed to achieve the rice production target would be the required budgetary support to keep critical interventions possible.
However, Congress appropriated only P15.4 billion for the DA in 2004. This is 26 percent lower than the proposed budget of P20.9 billion. This year's budget is a1so 35 percent lower than what the Agricultural Fisheries and Modernization Act (AFMA) provides for, and eight percent lower than the 2003 allocation.
The DA was able to increase palay production in the third and fourth quarter last year because of heavy intervention through the increased distribution of hybrid and certified seeds, application of appropriate fertilizers and inputs, and provision of needed irrigation, credit and marketing facilities.