THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said its plan for raising rice production will focus on expanding irrigation and building more processing facilities.

In a statement on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Francisco T. Laurel, Jr. said: “Ultimately, our aim is to minimize rice imports to achieve food security and sufficiency.”

As of Nov. 16, rice imports hit 2.94 million metric tons (MT), according to the Bureau of Plant Industry.

He said that minimizing imports could also improve the income of farmers and fisherfolk.

“(It would) create more jobs in a sector that already provides employment to one in every four Filipinos and reverse the shrinking trend of agriculture’s contribution to economic growth,” he added.

In a speech, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., the previous Secretary of Agriculture, said the DA is stepping up efforts to mechanize farming, increase agricultural infrastructure and adopt technology to improve grain production and supply.

“I am optimistic that all concerned government agencies, partners, and stakeholders will continue to explore ways to enhance existing agricultural technologies to improve and strengthen the rice industry, in line with our goal of a food-secure nation,” Mr. Marcos said.

He added that modernization of agriculture will equally focus on livestock, poultry, fisheries and high-value crops.

“The government shall continue to give primacy to research and development to ensure a sustainable rice value chain,” he said.

He added that the administration will also support the research initiatives of the Philippine Rice Research Institute to introduce modern agricultural biotechnology to improve rice output.

The DA has estimated that production of palay, or unmilled rice, will hit 20 million MT this year. This would exceed the 19.76 million MT recorded in 2022. — Adrian H. Halili