THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture-Davao (DA-11) is aiming for rice self-sufficiency in the region, where banana and coconut are among the major crops. DA-11 Regional Director Ricardo M. Oñate Jr. said they are initiating programs to help make each town develop rice production areas that can meet local demand. “We will not be relying much on the import. We should not abandon our own rice,” Mr. Oñate said in a forum last week. The DA-11 plans to help farmers form cooperatives for easier access to financial and technical assistance from government, including the annual P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) provided under Republic Act 1123, the Rice Tariffication Law. Data from DA-11 show 23 existing farmer-associations are expected to receive P67.6 million worth of machineries that will be purchased through the RCEF. Another set of machineries costing P104 million are awaiting approval.

Mr. Oñate said among the first towns they have started discussion with are Sto. Tomas and Carmen in Davao del Norte province, where land for rice production have already been allocated. Another town, Asuncion, is also already looking for an area for the project. In a press statement last week, the provincial government of Davao del Norte said it would look at buying palay, or unmilled rice, from farmers to increase farmgate prices to P19 per kilo from the current P12 as well as to ensure sufficiency of local supply. Mr. Oñate said the province is also planning to set up its own rice production complex, similar to the one in Matanao, Davao del Sur. — Carmelito Q. Francisco