AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said international cooperation and government support for a rice-growing community in Iloilo has helped its farmers supply the area with inexpensive rice, and held up the town of Dingle as a model for the rest of the country.

In a social media post, Mr. Piñol said on Sunday said that the Dingle Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DMPC) in the municipality of Dingle, Iloilo is able to sell rice at P33 per kilo, with well-polished rice commanding P37. This compares favorably with other areas, he said, where commercial rice can fetch P35 per kilo or higher.

“If the farmers of Dingle can sell locally produced rice for P33 to P37 per kilo, I do not see any reason why this could not be replicated in other parts of the country,” he added.

Mr. Piñol noted that DMPC received a rice processing complex from South Korea’s International Cooperation Agency during the last government’s term and was provided working capital of P5 million by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

DMPC was also a recipient of the DA’s Corporate Rice Farming Program which turns farmers into direct suppliers for large institutions. In August, DMPC signed a deal to supply rice to Seda Atria Iloilo, a hotel company, through Ayala Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

University of Asia and the Pacific Center for Food and Agribusiness Executive Director Rolando T. Dy, however, said low prices for rice are possible if the area it is consumed is near the production center and the area itself has a surplus.

“If dry palay is bought at P17 then rice can be retailed in Iloilo at P34. This is true for Panay which has a large surplus. In rice-deficit islands, it could be another story,” Mr. Dy told BusinessWorld in a text message on Sunday.

Mr. Piñol claims a 96% rice self-sufficiency rate for the Philippines after meeting with the International Rice Research Institute and the Philippine Rice Research Institute. Production was 19.4 million metric tons of palay in 2017.

The DA believes the trend may be unsustainable due to the limited land for planting rice and the increasing growth of the population.

Mr. Dy said that another reason for high prices is lack of mechanization.

“The Philipines is a high-cost producer compares to India, Vietnam and Thailand even at the same yields. [That’s because] rice here is not mechanized,” Mr. Dy said. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato