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New rice program seeks higher yield, zero importation

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Government launched ‘Masaganang Ani 200′ which aims to raise farmers’ rice yield to 200 cavans per hectare to stop importation, stabilizing food supply as globally traded ricethins down 36 million metric tons (MT).

Since the Philippines has long been recognized as highly vulnerable to calamity-causing climate change, it is important to take a strategic program to stabilize food supply.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Sec. Emmanuel Pinol said in thisweek’s hybrid rice harvest festival of SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) thatMasaganang Ani 200 should enable the Phlippines to stop riceimportation which is an economically and politically destabilizingfood strategy.

“The truth is we can’t just depend on other countries,” he said.”We don’t know when the next typhoon will come or when the next ElNino will hit us. The reality is we’re subject to climate change. Sowhen they say ‘Let’s just import,’ I tell them, ‘Don’t you know volumeof rice traded in the market is just at 36 million tons and 34 millionof that is committed already?’”

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) noted that as of 2014, traded rice stood at 42 million MT.

“Masaganang Ani 200 is our best option,” said Pinol. “Next year,we’ll have one million hectares for hybrid rice to achievesufficiency. We only have hybrid on less than 10 percent of our fourmillion-hectare rice land. We’ll present this program to the Cabineton April 19.”

Without such strategy, he said the country risks food shortage when “the name of the game will be the highest bidder (when rice volume slims) like in 2008 when price shot up to ,200 per ton.”

“What if El Nino hits Vietnam, India, China?” he asked. “We won’tbe able to compete with China so we must improve farmers’productivity. We don’t need to expand our area. We just need toimprove technology. If we raise productivity by two tons per hectare,that will be two million tons from one million hectare and we won’tneed to import.”

Pinol said DA will organize service providers that will allowfarmers’ use of equipment like tractors, transplanters and combineharvesters.

With the limited fund, DA cannot just give these away to farmersbut a service provider will make adequate supply of these needs.

Government also reaffirmed planned free irrigation for farmers.

PInol said hybrid rice can double farmers’ harvest from the present 4.15 MT per hectare national average yield per hectare.

This average already improved from 3.9 MT per hectare due toproductivity growth from use of hybrid rice, he said.

He committed to put up shallow tube wells, citing his inability touse irrigation funds for national irrigation facilities of NationalIrrigation Administration (NIA) since this agency is not under DA.

Pinol likewise committed to provide farmers machines and credit by lending them PHP50,000 each in a collateral-free credit that may beobtained in three days.

This should start with listing all farmers nationally who will eachhave his own biometric identification card and passbook. (PNA)

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