An official of the Department of Agriculture said the 20.4-million metric ton (MMT) “palay” (unhusked rice) harvest target set by the Philippine Statistics Authority this year is achievable.
In a virtual presser, Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said the rice industry achieved the 19.44 MMT of palay harvest in 2020 despite the challenges faced by the agriculture sector.
“The 20.4-MMT yield for 2021 projected by the PSA is due to the ongoing implementations that were strategized under the National Rice Program, among others. Despite the Taal eruption, African swine flu, the series of typhoons, and the pandemic that challenged our operations in 2020, still we have achieved the 19.44 MMT,” he said.
He said that last year’s 19.44-MMT yield was the highest harvest of rice in the country so far, besting the 19.27 MMT recorded in 2017.
As part of its mandate to ensure food productivity and availability, the DA is scheduled to distribute almost 2 million seeds of the high-yielding variety and nearly 5 million fertilizer bags to rice farmers for 2020-2021.
Cayanan said some of these will be harvested during the first and second quarters this year.
He also said that Agriculture Secretary William Dar has used the P8.5-billion Rice Resiliency Project fund to finance the Plant, Plant, Plant Program in 16 rice-producing regions in the country.
The DA will continue to distribute inbred and hybrid rice seeds with fertilizers to both rainfed and irrigated areas, on top of the existing Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and support to inbred and hybrid farmers under the NRP.
Cayanan, meanwhile, said the DA is expected to import some 1.69 MMTs of rice this year, depending on how much the private sector will buy from other countries due to the liberalized trade.
The 1.69-MMT estimate is lower compared to last year’s more than 2 MMTs of rice import.
Cayanan said the imported rice is sufficient to fill the country’s 90-day lean months of harvest. “This is also why the Secretary wants to increase rice production as well as our quality of rice so we can export in higher quantity and quality. That means bigger income for Filipino producers,” he said.*PNA