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Philippines Has to Invest P20B Yearly on Rice Production to Avert Food Crisis, Says Expert
Source: balita.ph
Source Date: Sunday, April 18, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Philippines
Created: Apr 19, 2010

MANILA, April 17 – The government must invest P15 billion to P20 billion annually in rice production in the next five years to make the Philippines self-sufficient of the staple crop, according to former Agriculture Secretary Dr. William Dar.

Dar, dirtector general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), said the investments cover expenditure for farm inputs, irrigation, research and development (R&D), stakeholders’ capacity-building as well as other components of the support system for higher rice production.

”We still have the possibility for self-sufficiency as long as there’s sustained investment to increase rice production,” he said on the side of Kapihan sa Sulo forum.

Dar raised urgency for such investment, warning the country will face a food crisis if it’s unable to fully meet domestic demand for rice.

”Climate change will aggravate the problem because water will be scarce and hotter temperature will affect production,” he said.

Rice production will also continue reeling from other natural phenomena like El Nino.

The Philippines could not depend on importation to address its production shortfall as other countries were also tapping available foreign supply to meet their own respective rice demand, Dar said.

Since only five percent to seven percent of world food production is available for the global trade on rice, the Philippines could hardly bring in what it needs if big countries like China and India import their respective requirements also.

”There won’t be rice supply for us so we’ll starve,” he said.

Dar urges the next administration to augment in the coming years government’s P10-billion annual rice production budget in 2009 and 2010.

He said an increased budget would enable the government to meet its 2009-2013 rice sufficiency program’s production target of 17.5 million metric tons.

”For the incoming administration to be stable in the next six years, it must give the right investment support for rice sufficiency,” he said.

He described the Philippines as the world’s top rice importer, saying this country sources from the world market five percent to 10 percent of its total domestic requirement at present.

Without government’s rice sufficiency program, he said, the country’s importation level would further increase by some 10 to 15 percent.

”Given the available world market supply of rice, there’s unease if the country will always depend on importation even if we have the money for it,” he said.

Dar said he and his colleagues plan to advocate a rice production budget hike, noting past experience shows it paid to invest in boosting the support system for rice production.

”Because of continuing support for R&D (research and development), even if it’s not that much, the Philippines’ national average yield tripled from 1.5 tons per hectare to 3.8 tons per hectare during the period covering the 1970s until today,” he said.

The government invested only 0.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in agriculture, he said, while "the desired level is one percent of GDP in agriculture.”

To help boost rice production, Dar said ICRISAT continued developing varieties resistant to drought and other conditions.

He highlighted the significance of such R&D activity, noting agricultural damage from drought due to the on-going El Nino would likely reach P12 billion to P13 billion.

This is higher than the P10 billion agricultural loss during the 1998 El Nino episode, he said.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration considers the on-going El Nino mild compared to the 1998 episode.
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