THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said its rice-self-sufficiency target may be achieved in 2019, a year earlier than its initial timetable.

“If we are able to achieve that, the country will have enough rice supply to fill the needs of the Filipino people and we will no longer be dependent on imported rice as early as 2019 or 2020 at the latest,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a social media post on Wednesday.

To achieve rice self-sufficiency, the agency will have to meet full-year production of some 21.67 million metric tons of unhusked rice, or palay.

In a Tuesday report, the Philippine Statistics Authority forecast palay output for the third quarter to expand 14.14% year on year to 3.39 million tons and grow 6.76% to 10.65 million tons in the second half.

This projects palay production for the year at a record 19.22 million tons — up 9.06% and exceeding the DA’s target of 19 million tons for this year.

“Judging on the robust growth of rice in farms all over the country today, the Agriculture department is expecting increased harvest in the last quarter of this year,” Mr. Piñol added.

Efforts to achieve the goal will include planting hybrid rice over 1 million hectares, the installment of small irrigation systems and solar-power for irrigation systems nationwide, and added financing for farmers.

Economic managers have questioned whether rice self-sufficiency is an appropriate goal, as opposed to food self-sufficiency, as the DA calls for more budgetary resources to fund aggressive rice planting programs. — Janina C. Lim