The new chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has directed all remaining and future regional directors of the agency to strive for rice self-sufficiency in all regions of the country in the next two years.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said DA regional directors who will not be able to achieve rice self-sufficiency in their areas within the target period would be dismissed from their office.
“We have to have rice sufficiency in two years’ time—four cropping seasons—in every region. That’s the task of the new directors. If they don’t achieve this, I will remove them [from their position],” Piñol said during his turnover ceremony at the DA.
Regions that are already self-sufficient, such as the Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Davao region, are also expected to further improve their palay production, he said.
In turn, the new DA secretary committed to provide all production support to the regions, including seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs. He also promised to improve irrigation facilities, such as communal and small-scale irrigation systems.
To carry out this plan, Piñol said he is looking at a budget of P30 billion, which will be used as assistance to local farmers and fishermen within the next two cropping seasons.
“We will do our numbers, we will compute and on Tuesday afternoon the Cabinet Economic Cluster will meet. It’s chaired by [Finance] Secretary [Carlos] Sonny G. Dominguez III and I promised to present to them my costing for the rice-sufficiency program,” he expounded.
Meanwhile, one of the strategies being eyed by Piñol to attain rice self-sufficiency in the country is increasing the average yield of farmers.
“Our target right now is to increase productivity by at least 1 metric ton [MT] per hectare per harvest. If we can do that, we’re done,” he said.
Piñol said the national average rice yield of the Philippines remains at 4 MT per hectare, despite there being farmers who have already harvested as much as 12 MT to 15 MT per hectare.
He said increasing the average yield by at least 1 MT per hectare will result in additional volume that exceeds the shortfall of the country, which is about 1.8 million metric tons (MMT).
“If it can be done by other farmers with [a yield] of 12 MT per hectare, I don’t see any reason why other farmers cannot do it,” the official said.
Improving the country’s average yield would entail reviewing the irrigation, fertilization and seeds program of the government, according to Piñol.
He said the DA is currently looking at investing in high-quality seeds good for an area of 2 million hectares.
Piñol, during an interview with the media, also revealed he is eyeing to create a grain-surplus stock by the end of the term of President Duterte.
“At the end of the term of the President, my vision is to be able to come up with a grain-surplus stock [that is] good for six months. Grains, not rice,” Piñol said.
He said the DA will be putting up grain silos in critical areas all over the country to ensure the different regions have prepositioned stocks of grains in case of calamities and natural phenomena, such as El Niño.
The DA, under the term of former Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, has been able to increase the country’s rice self-sufficiency level to 97 percent in 2013, from 81 percent in 2010.
The DA said palay production from 2012 to 2015 exceeded 18 MMT yearly, a level which was sustained even with the devastation of El Niño in 2015.
Piñol also named a few individuals that he is recommending to become top officials of the agencies under the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Mechanization (Opafsam).
Piñol said he has asked the permission of Mr. Duterte to recommend the next administrators of the National
Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.
“Although these four agencies are not directly under the DA right now, I was able to secure the approval of the President to now recommend officials who will handle these agencies of the government,” Piñol said during the turnover ceremony at the DA.
He endorsed C’zar M. Sulaik, NIA regional director for Caraga, as new NIA administrator; Domingo Duerme, former Philippine Airlines vice president for Mindanao, as NFA administrator; and Al Mendoza, journalist and farmer, as PCA administrator.
Piñol said he has already submitted a memorandum to Duterte, recommending that the four agencies under the Opafsam be returned to the DA for “effective operations.”
Piñol also named other appointees who will work as officials of the DA. He has retained Bernadette Puyat, who is now chief of staff of the DA, and Segfredo R. Serrano, undersecretary for policy, planning, research and development and regulations.
He introduced Evelyn Laviña as undersecretary for high-value crops and Ranibai Dilangalen as undersecretary for special concern. Commo. Eduardo Gongona was named director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The secretary’s brother, Ferdinand Piñol, was assigned as his executive assistant.
Other officials named were Francisco Villano Jr., assistant secretary for finance; lawyer Hansel Didulo, assistant secretary for Visayas; Enrico Garzon Jr., assistant secretary for livestock; Lerey Panes, assistant secretary for special projects; and Bong Año, assistant secretary for operations, among others.
Image credits: Nonoy Lacza
Downright far-fetched, “suntok-sa-buwan” and simply overly ambitious! Imagine having 4 croppings in a year when we in Ilocos can barely produce 50 cavans of palay per hectare. Unless in two years time you can replicate the Mekong Delta Canal System where the remotest village is accessible, irrigated and produce ready for pick up and delivery. Sec. Pinol is a small time farmer not the likes of the major supplier of Healthy Options. He should follow what Sec. Pernia said that it would be better to aspire for food security rather than rice sufficiency. Moreover Vietnam and Thailand alone have rice production costs much lower than the Philippines. So it would be better just to import the rice shortfall until your ambitious irrigation targets are met and El Nino is effectively countered. Lastly it would be helpful if North Cotobato rice productivity is examined more by the secretary.