LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The country is right on track in its bid to become rice self-sufficient within the next two years following record-breaking rice yields in different rice-producing areas in the archipelago over the past two years.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the country’s agriculture sector is lucky this year because of the declaration by weather experts that the feared effects of prolonged drought or El Niño phenomenon will no longer be felt which would ensure expected increased yields.
“We do not want to be placed in a bad light if we will give a definite production on when we are able to be rice self-sufficient. It is just around the corner,” Alcala stressed.
In 2013, the country was able to produce 18.44 million metric tons of rice which was 96 percent of the total rice production and in 2014, the country produced around 18.96 million metric tons of rice which was just 1 percent short of the projected total rice production of 19.05 million metric tons.
According to him, the agriculture department projected a total rice production of over 20 million metric tons of rice this year.
He explained rice had been realizing record-breaking productions over the past two years and realizing rice self-sufficiency is likely within the next two years.
Secretary Alcala said one of the major thrusts of the agency is to aggressively promote the increased production and the export of native rice varieties to countries interested to buy the heirloom rice for their citizens.
The DA official disclosed heirloom rice being produced in the Cordillera such as the ‘tinawon’ variety of Ifugao and ‘unoy’ variety of Kalinga are now in demand in the United States and Canada but it seems the supply is still not enough to cater to the growing demand of heirloom rice varieties.
It was learned Ifugao produces at least 10 metric tons of ‘tinawon’ rice while Kalinga produces the same volume of ‘unoy’ rice annually but the demand has almost doubled over the past several years. The heirloom rice commands a buying price of $5 to $10 dollars per kilo.
Secretary Alcala said the government’s program of rice self-sufficiency can be sustained because the agency allows the development of more agricultural lands which must be more than double compared to the agricultural lands being converted into residential or housing sites in urban areas.
“We have to sustain the existence of agricultural lands in the countryside. We will not allow the conversion of agricultural lands to residential areas to be at a faster pace compared to the development of idle lands into agricultural farms,” Secretary Alcala said.
He cited as an example that if there are 1,000 hectares of agricultural lands that were converted into residential areas or housing sites, more than 2,000 hectares of idle lands should also be converted into productive agricultural lands so that the production of agricultural crops will be sustained and the gains of the country’s agriculture sector will be maintained for the benefit of the present and future generations.
He said the department is also working on the enhanced production of agricultural crops in order to balance the country’s food security and maximize the utilization of the available resources to have staple food on the table of every family in the future.