Monday, September 26, 2011
Will Philippines Achieve Rice Self-Sufficiency?
Will DA Really Achieve Rice Self-Sufficiency?
Statistics show targets are being met but some organizations are doubtful
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is optimistic that through the National Rice Program the country will achieve rice self-sufficiency in 2013. But with only P6.181 billion allocation for the program in 2012, doubts on the possibility of rice sufficiency loom.
The proposed appropriation for the Department of Agriculture (DA) for 2012 is P61.734 billion. And of the P6.181 billion budget for the rice program, P4.533 billion will be channeled to DA’s regional offices, while P1.647 billion will be shared by the Office of the Secretary, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM), Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI), and the Agricultural Training Institute.
In a report in Interaksyon.com, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) says that of the P4.533 billion, P3.31 billion will go to Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), while only P1.223 will be used for capital outlay (to buy palay from rice farmers with). The P1.223 billion, according to KMP, translates to a budget of only P452.96 per rice farmer.
With this amount, Anakpawis Party list Rep. Rafael Mariano asks: “How can we achieve rice self-sufficiency in the next two years if the government allocated a very meager P452 for each of the 2.7 million rice farmers?”
The group Bantay Bigas also finds the P6.181 billion budget for the National Rice Program “unrealistic.” In a report in Testigo, a website of human rights documentation system moderated by the Ibon Foundation, Bantay Bigas spokesperson Lita Mariano suggests that “the rice program should get about 50 percent of the DA’s budget considering that rice production is the most important economic activity in the country.”
But DA’s share and the appropriation for the rice program are just approximately 3 percent and 0.34 percent, respectively of the national budget for 2012.
Compared to top rice exporters “Indonesia and Thailand who [respectively] allocates 7.6 percent and 10.4 percent of their national budget for agriculture, the Philippines’ 3-percent share is embarrassingly ridiculous considering that it is targeting [rice] self-sufficiency by 2013,” says Roman Sanchez, national president of the National Federation of Employees’ Association of the Department of Agriculture, in the Testigo report.
Alcala’s Explanation of DA’s Proposed Budget
Actually, DA’s total budget even increased by 68 percent from P38 billion in 2011. The allocation for the rice program likewise increased from P5.217 billion in 2011.
These are one of the reasons why during the budget hearing at the House of Representatives, Alcala expressed optimism that the goal of rice sufficiency will be met. He said DA’s bigger budget will boost rice production.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Alcala also dismissed the belief of agricultural sectors that the inadequacy of the budget for the National Rice Program in 2012 will hamper the achievement of rice self-sufficiency in 2013. He said the agricultural projections for 2012 have been studied and computed and are covered by a financial plan.
Alcala is also very much aware of the criticisms thrown against the rice program. Earlier, he was quoted in news reports saying “the only factor that may impede the country to hit the target is when we cast doubts on our capabilities.” He also said that despite the pessimism of some sectors, the government is determined to pursue its vision to achieve rice sufficiency.
DA’s Roadmap Toward Rice Sufficiency
In order to achieve rice sufficiency, the DA is following the Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap (FSSR).
The FSSR consists of three main strategies: to increase and sustain production of grains, improve farm mechanization and reduce postharvest losses; and manage consumption.
To increase and sustain the production of grains, the DA will increase farmers’ access to high quality seeds by establishing community seed banks in each province. The Philippine Rice Research Institute will supply breeder and foundation seeds, “while the Bureau of Plant and Industry will expedite seeds certification process.”
Very importantly, the Land Bank of the Philippines, on one hand, “will provide credit assistance to seed growers.”
Another strategy to boost grains production is the research, development and promotion of appropriate technologies. To do this, PhilRice will continue to research and develop rice production technologies, “the BSWM will promote balanced fertilization, and the National Organic Agriculture Board will promote sustainable farming systems in areas with low use of inorganic fertilizer.”
Farmers’ education is also part of the strategy to increase rice harvest. To achieve this, the Agricultural Training Institute will help rice farmers by conducting community organizing and trainings in rice farming. The DA will also develop upland rice-based farming systems “to address food insecurity” in poor areas in the upland.
Another strategy to intensify palay production is to institute mechanisms that will stimulate production response from farmers. This involves increasing the domestic palay procurement of the National Food Authority (see related story) and safeguarding irrigated areas from land conversion.
Irrigation-Serviceable Areas Being Increased
The DA will also develop and maintain irrigation systems. The FSSR says “the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) will implement projects that will increase irrigation-serviceable areas.”
To improve farm mechanization and lessen postharvest losses, DA will have farmers associations send their farmer-members into training for the operation and maintenance of farm equipment and facilities. It will also provide farmers associations with multi-purpose drying pavement, flatbed dryers, and modern rice mills.
Lastly, to manage rice consumption, DA will keep per capita rice consumption at 120 kg per year. This entails promoting the consumption of unpolished rice or brown rice and reduction of table wastes. It also includes diversification of staples; by boosting the production of white corn, sweet potato, cassava and plantain their increased market supply will lower their prices.
All things considered, there’s no question that the FSSR is a well-intended program. But this roadmap is implying something.
Commenting on the FSSR, UP Economics Professor and former National Economic Development Secretary Solita Monsod writes in her Inquirer column that “unless our appetite for rice (per capita consumption) decreases, and/or our incomes increase (which cuts rice consumption because we can then afford other food), and/or our population decreases, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of attaining rice self-sufficiency (zero imports) by 2013.”
The State of Rice Production
The DA has been following the FSSR for quite some time now and Alcala has expressed confidence on its implementation. So what has the department accomplished so far in the FSSR?
In answer to our query, Alcala says that among the things that the DA has done is to improve farmers’ access to high quality seeds. He says that because the department has discovered that majority of farmers plant ordinary seeds, it has distributed registered seeds to farmers as these yield as much as 1.2 MT to 1.5 MT per hectare compared to certified seeds.
He also says that the DA has provided farmers’ associations with dryers, hand tractors, thresher and other postharvest facilities to reduce postharvest losses, especially during the wet season.
The DA has also expanded the production of non-rice staples like cassava in provinces like Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga and Sulu where this is the main staple.
To address food insecurity in the upland where many indigenous people dwell, Alcala says that the DA has been aggressive in boosting the production of upland rice varieties like black rice, brown rice and red rice. These are the premium type of palay that have less water requirement and have a prized aroma.
In addition, National Rice Program director Dante Delima earlier reported that as of June 10, 2011, 1,247 farmers in Regions 11 and 13 benefited from the upland rice development program as they received 72,254.50 kg of seeds from the DA.
Delima also reported that 14,538 hectares (ha) have been utilized for seed production. Of this, 13,390 ha are planted to registered seeds, while 1,135 ha to foundation seeds, and 13.30 ha to breeder seeds.
These efforts are part of DA’s goal to produce 17.45 million metric tons (MT) of palay this year and it targets to increase this in 2012 to 19.2 million MT or by 10 percent. Achieving these goals will be tantamount to 84.4 percent rice self-sufficiency in 2011 and 91.9 percent in 2012.
These targets, however, are a challenge to the DA because according to the BAS palay production dropped by 3.04 percent in 2010. Data from BAS show that the volume of palay production decreased from 16.82 million MT in 2008 to 16.26 million MT in 2009 and to only 15.77 million in 2010.
Based on the data from BAS, one reason for the production decline is the decrease in area planted to palay. Area planted and harvested decreased from 4.46 million hectares (ha) in 2008 and 4.53 million ha in 2009 to 4.36 million ha in 2010. The long dry spell in 2010 is also a factor for palay’s negative growth.
The hope for DA is that palay production has increased in the first half of 2011. According to BAS, this is because the “harvest areas expanded due to recovery from the adverse effects of the El Niño phenomenon.” Palay production is 7.58 million MT and this is “14.45 percent higher than the previous year’s level.”
Monsod says that although this is true, the production growth is still because of the increase in area planted to rice and not because of an increase in yield per hectare. “While the 2011 yield was greater than that of 2012 yield, there was no significant difference from the 2009 yield.”
Alcala strongly questions this assertion by Monsod. He says before the average yield per hectare was 3.6 MT and lately it has increased to 3.8 MT.
“So we have improved. Actually, if we could get [an average yield of] 4.2 MT/ha sa buong Pilipinas [the entire Philippines] we won’t need to import rice [anymore],” adds Alcala. “At hindi po talaga kayang biglain kasi [And it can’t really be suddenly increased because] we have to educate our farmers on appropriate technologies to improve rice productivity.”
The Importance and State of Irrigation
Besides the recovery from the dry spell due to this year’s wet summer, improved irrigation is cited by Alcala in news reports as a big factor for the promising performance of palay.
Asked how has the DA improved irrigation, Alcala says the department has a better feedback mechanism. He says he personally reaches out to farmers and irrigators’ association even in far-flung provinces to query them about their difficulties. This has helped in addressing problems in irrigation.
How important is irrigation in achieving rice self-sufficiency? Very much.
First of all, far more irrigated rice paddies are being utilized than rainfed paddies. According to BAS, the total area harvested for irrigated paddies was 3.03 million ha in 2008, 3.06 million ha in 2009, and 3.01 million ha in 2010. Yet the total area harvested for rainfed paddies was only 1.43 million ha in 2008, 1.48 million ha in 2009, and 1.35 million ha in 2010.
Second, the yield per hectare of irrigated paddy is higher than rainfed paddy. Data from BAS show that the yield of irrigated paddy was 4.14 MT/ha in 2008, 3.95 MT/ha in 2009, and 3.99 MT/ha in 2010. But the yield of rainfed rice paddy was only 2.98 MT/ha in 2008, 2.83 MT/ha in 2009, and 2.81 MT/ha in 2010.
In all, irrigated rice paddies produced 12.56 million MT of palay in 2008, 12.08 million MT in 2009, and 11.99 million MT in 2010.
Considering irrigation’s contribution to rice production, it is no surprise that the development and maintenance of irrigation systems tops the list of strategies in the FSSR. And this year, NIA needs P12,790,650 to achieve these physical targets: irrigate 27,140 ha of new areas, rehabilitate 100,680 ha, and restore 31,707 ha.
Interestingly, this year’s physical targets are higher and require less funding compared to last year’s irrigation program. Because in 2010, the financial requirement for the irrigation program was P13,599,386 to establish 3,446 ha of new irrigation systems, rehabilitate 27,139 ha, and restore 26,125 ha.
So What Has the DA Done to Improve Irrigation?
To start with, Alcala told The Manila Times that the BSWM has established small water impounds, and these short-term projects immediately benefit farmers. The small water impounds “can influence 50 ha to 200 ha of rice land” and farmers can also use these in vegetable production, especially during the dry season.
In June, NIA administrator Antonio Nangel reported to Alcala that NIA had irrigated 1.034 million ha from May 2010 to March 2011, resulting in 135 percent cropping intensity. A total of 546,363 ha are irrigated during the wet season, while 490,153 ha during the dry season.
Nangel also said that NIA irrigated 194,570 ha from July 2010 to April 2011. Of these, 10,304 ha are new areas, 150,078 are rehabilitated areas, and 34,188 are restored areas.
Nangel is also pleased to report that NIA has continued implementing 38 irrigation projects in 2010. Five of these are foreign-assisted, 23 are locally funded, 3 are inter-agency, and 7 are carry-over projects. This year, NIA implements 5 ongoing, 1 foreign-assisted, 3 inter-agency, and 5 carry-over projects.
But recently, KMP reported that doubts are being raised on this year’s P25.7 billion allocation for irrigation projects because farmers are reportedly paying for the irrigation fees, hence the budget for irrigation cannot be considered as government support.
Alcala expressed dismay about this report. He asks, how can the government maintain the irrigation systems if it cannot source funds from the farming sector. He also reminds us that irrigation projects are “usually foreign-funded projects that we have to repay.”
“Ang daling magsalita ng paninira sa pamahalaan [It’s so easy to speak ill of the government],” adds Alcala. “These people keep on saying things na para bang sila lang ang magaling [as if they are so great]. Sila po ba ay may nagawa nang maayos para sa ating mga magsasaka [Have they really done something well for our farmers?]”
By Manila Times
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