Gov't urged to invest in P59-B irrigation to hike rice yield

Ellalyn B. de Vera, Marvyn N. Benani

Headlines, April 14, 2008


http://www.mb. 405121084. html



About 109 percent self-sufficiency rate of farmers can be achieved in 2009 if the government will invest in the P59 billion worth of irrigation, post-harvest facilities and support to increase rice yield, an organization of farmers and civil society yesterday said in light of the looming rice crisis in the country.


Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) issued the statement based on the computation of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) that can help increase the farmer's yield and achieve self-sufficiency next year.


However, the group criticized the efforts of the government to spend P58.7 billion for rice importation to avert an impending rice shortage for this period alone.


R1 lead convenor Jessica Reyes Cantos said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should ensure that the additional R5 billion farmers' subsidy will be truly used to increase the farmers' profitability and viability to pursue rice farming and not to ensure profits of seed companies through the seed support subsidy program.


She said the government spending on rice importation is almost as much as the amount that have been spent for irrigation, post-harvest facilities and increase in yield to achieve self-sufficiency in 2009.


National Rice Farmers Council chairman Jimmy Tadeo said the global supply of rice should never be given much importance as a source of local food needs, especially rice, which is turning out to be the most important commodity, second to fuel.


"People's money should be spent for what it's worth and the government should learn its lesson of relying on imports to feed the people of its staple food," Tadeo said.


The farmers and civil society groups also urged the government to reveal the true situation of food availability in the country.


"They should reveal to the people the real score on the shortage. Nothing should hide the fact that this administration has not done strategically decisive to improve the rice sector and they should be made to face the consequences," Cantos said.


Meanwhile, the Philippines will never be able to achieve self-sufficiency in rice unless it expands land for the cultivation of the staple or plant more genetically enhanced rice strains that yield up to 35 percent more than the traditional varieties.


These two options are the only ones available for the country, which devotes only 2.3 million hectares of irrigated land for rice cultivation, many of them in farms of uneconomic sizes, with little or no mechanization, and with less water.





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