News & Events

Water crisis won't affect rice harvest

Manila Times, January 13, 2004

THE Department of Agriculture’s (DA) rice program director on Monday said the country would achieve a 97 to 100 percent sufficiency in rice this year despite the reported water shortage that has forced a 5 percent cutback in water supply for irrigation in Central Luzon.

Frisco M. Malabanan, director of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program, said the country is on its way to harvesting between 14.8 million metric tons (MT) and 15.1 million MT of palay (unmilled rice) for 2004.

“This early, we don’t see that it [water shortage] would affect our rice production for the year. We have already started our cloud seeding operation to complement any reduction in supply for irrigation,” he said.

What would drive palay output this year, according to Malabanan, is the planting of hybrid rice seeds over 600,000 hectares of farmland. He noted that the average harvest of hybrid rice is 30-percent higher than ordinary certified seeds.

A source, however, claimed that the reduction in water supply for irrigation in Central Luzon would definitely affect palay harvest in the area.

The 568-square-kilometer Angat Dam in Bulacan supplies 43 cubic meters of water a second to some 28,000 hectares planted to palay in Bulacan and Pampanga.

Upon the warning of a looming water crisis during summer, the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) cut back by 5 percent its water allocation from Angat Dam for household use in Metro Manila and irrigation in Central Luzon.

The reduction reportedly affected 1,250 farmers in Pampanga and Bulacan and is expected to result in a total crop loss of 150,000 50-kilo bags of palay.

Before this, the NWRB cut off the a third of water supply for irrigation when the El Nino weather phenomenon struck Luzon from the December 1997 to July 1998.

The country imported nearly 11 percent of its domestic rice requirement in 2003, higher than the 6 percent originally reported by the DA.

The Philippines is targeting to achieve 97 percent to 100 percent self-sufficiency in rice next year. This means that it has to limit its rice imports to a maximum of 300,000 MT.

For the whole of 2004, the country would need 9.818 million MT or 196.36 million bags of milled rice. To meet that volume, domestic palay production must reach over 15.105 million MT or 302.1 million bags, given the country’s 65 percent average milling recovery rate.

Total self-sufficiency in rice, however, is now a remote possibility as the National Food Authority opened the bids for the importation of at least 500,000 MT of milled rice this year.