Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rice and corn production improved during the first quarter of the year, according to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.
Some 4.7 million metric tons of rice were produced between January to March of this year, up 6.8% from the same period last year. Corn production was at 2.5 million metric tons, gaining some 4.2% year-on-year.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) attributed the growth to farmers' increased adoption of modern technologies.
“Farmers now use good quality seeds. There is now greater awareness and they realize that using quality seeds can increase their harvest two-fold,” said Piñol.
The DA is also confident that the country is on track to hit the 97% target of rice sufficiency this year.
“We don’t want to go beyond that because we don’t have a program on how to export our rice. Prices will fall in the market, farmers could take a hit if we have an oversupply,” Piñol said.
Output figures may be stable, but several factors in play have made life harder for farmers. For instance, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) says farmers earned 10% less because of the implementation of the tax reform law.
The agriculture chief says he is in favor of increasing “to an extent” the farmgate price of palay.
"I favor increasing [the farmgate price], but we cannot just carelessly bring it up to a level where consumers will be affected," Piñol said.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average farmgate palay price is at P20.79 per kilogram, as of May 2, up 0.39% the average price two weeks ago.
Moreover, consumers still took a hit despite the steady supply, due to the low supply of affordable rice.
Last week, the National Food Authority awarded the supply of 250,000 metric tons of rice imports to Vietnam and Thailand to remedy the issue.
To encourage farmers to sell their produce to the NFA, the DA is planning to reward them with farm implements and machinery.
"If they sell around 20 metric tons [of palay], you will have one power tiller," Piñol added. – Rappler.com