THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is expecting a rebound in rice production this year, projecting a harvest of 20 million metric tons (MT), Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said.
“This year, the DA is projecting a historic harvest of 20 million metric tons and this is based on the increase in the number of farmers using inbred and hybrid seed, from 48% to 60% last year,” Mr. Piñol said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Mr. Piñol said agriculture is not dying, despite claims made by newspaper columnists after targets were not met, leading to more imports of key staples.
“For as long as people eat, farmers and fishermen will always be around,” Mr. Piñol said.
“For the record, the Duterte administration posted the highest harvest of rice in the history of the country with 19.28 million MT in 2017, higher by over one million MT than the last production of the Aquino administration. Even when the rice sector suffered over one million MT in losses in 2018 because of the almost monthly tropical disturbances, the harvest was still a very high 19.066 million MT,” Mr. Piñol added.
The rice tariffication bill is expected to become a law this year. With its passage, quantitative restrictions on rice imports will be removed, while tariffs will be used to help the domestic rice farmers through the creation of the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
On Monday, SL Agritech Corp. said that P10 billion is not enough to support rice farmers across the Philippines. The company also noted that hybrid seed should be included in the assistance the RCEF will be providing.
“Hybrid rice must be included because that is the latest technology that can help the farmers,” Frisco M. Malabanan, SL Agritech Senior Technical Consultant, told reporters.
“It is now that we in the industry are asking that we plant 1.5 million hectares of hybrid rice in one year. This is the solution to be self-sufficient, so we do not keep relying on our neighbor countries,” Mr. Malabanan said.
In fisheries, Mr. Piñol said that the industry is expected to grow as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) started establishing post-harvest facilities for fishermen.
“Fisheries which for years posted negative growth, leveled off this year and it is expected to grow with the establishment of ice-making, cold storage and post-harvest facilities this year in the fishing communities,” Mr. Piñol said.
“Also, the closed fishing season program is showing positive results with the big fish like tuna and others swimming close to shore to feed on the pelagic species which have multiplied because of the conservation program,” Mr. Piñol added.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the total volume of fisheries production in 2018 was an estimated 4.38 million MT, up 0.92%. Among the three subsectors — aquaculture, municipal and commercial fishing — only aquaculture posted an increase.
Aquaculture fisheries production rose 2.98% to 2.30 million MT in 2018. The subsector had a 52.95% share of fisheries production.
Municipal fishing production meanwhile was 1.11 million MT in 2018, down 1.78%. The subsector accounted for 25.41% of fisheries output.
Commercial fishing production declined 0.71% to 941.59 thousand MT in 2018, comprising 21.64% of total fisheries output. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio