The Philippines is on track to logging a record harvest in palay (unmilled rice) this year, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Sunday.
“To top it all, with sustained initiatives and strong cooperation of various rice industry stakeholders, we look forward to achieving an all-time record of at least 20.4 million metric tons (MT) of palay this year,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
He said the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) was instrumental in achieving that objective.
“The RTL is a transformative but disruptive policy reform. While we have anticipated transition to take time, the benefits that it brings to both consumers and palay farmers during this time of crisis cannot be denied,” the DA chief added.
“Despite the pandemic, we are slowly but surely hurdling the challenges in the implementation of RTL with tangible results in terms of palay productivity, farmgate price, and retail prices of rice,” Secretary Dar said.
“Rice is no longer the traditional driver of inflation. In fact, the stable supply of rice under the RTL regime has helped temper food inflation in the past several months, which continues to experience upward pressure from the tight supply of meat,” he added.
For the current dry season, the DA through its Philippine Integrated Rice Program (PIRP) projects that palay production could reach 10 million metric tons (MMT), which is expected to extend in the next main cropping or wet season, as farmers are encouraged by higher farmgate prices.
In a report to Secretary Dar, DA-PIRP Director Dionisio Alvindia said they expect the palay sector to continue its positive growth this year despite the community lockdowns due to coronavirus pandemic.
“The higher prices of palay at farmgate provide more incentives for our farmers to continue planting,” he said.
The optimism is buoyed by the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), saying that palay production reached 4.57 MMT in January to March 2021, or 7.2 percent higher than the 4.26 million MT recorded during the same three-month period last year.
The PSA attributed the gains to the increase in harvest area (1.1 million hectares) and planting intentions (85 percent of total area actually planted) during the period.
Alvindia said that at least two million hectares of land were planted to rice during the dry cropping season, with farmers producing an average of five MT per hectare, roughly one ton more than the national average.
The RTL also generated at least P20 billion in 2019 and 2020 from tariff collected from imported rice that were challenged to various programs under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. These are: Mechanization component – 9,236 machineries and equipment delivered to 3,180 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs); seed component – 1.65 million bags (20 kg/bag) of certified seeds distributed to 661,567 farmers; Credit component – loaned a total of P2 billion to 5,956 farmers, and 97 FCAs, where 7,317 of its members are sub-borrowers; and Extension component – trained 226 specialists, 8,110 trainers, and 71,962 farmers, and established new 90 farm schools and enhanced 43 farm schools.