The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Wednesday said the country’s total palay harvest this year could increase by 8 percent to a record-high of 20.341 million metric tons (MMT) on the back of better yield and favorable planting conditions.
In a news statement, the DA said second semester palay output is projected to reach 11.954 MMT, which is 13.4 percent more than the 10.545 MMT output in the July-to-December period of last year.
The country’s palay output in the first half grew by 1.4 percent to 8.387 MMT from last year’s 8.269 MMT, the DA added.
In a recent virtual Senate hearing, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan said the projected full-year output would be met, barring weather disturbances such as typhoons and possible impact of La Niña.
If the full-year palay output is met, this would bring the country’s rice self-sufficiency level from 87 percent to about 93 percent to 94 percent, Cayanan said.
Following higher local production, the DA said it will now encourage Filipino rice farmers to shift from planting low-quality rice varieties to high-quality ones that are preferred by consumers to be able to earn more.
“We need to adapt to the changes brought about by the rice tariffication law, one of which is consumers’ preference for quality rice. This is now an integral part of the overall transformation of the country’s rice industry,” said Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar.
“That is why for the succeeding cropping seasons, we are not just after attaining production targets but also producing quality rice for Filipino consumers that will provide higher income for farmers,” he added.
Dar made the pronouncement during a recent virtual meeting with leaders of farmers’ groups, rice millers and traders, from major rice-producing provinces, the DA said.
Citing a Bulacan-based miller, the DA said the low quality of palay harvest worsened the current anemic market demand since consumers prefer high-quality rice.
The DA quoted a Nueva Ecija-based miller that “if farmers want to command good prices, they should plant better quality rice seeds and what the consumers want.”
Citing a trader from Isabela, the DA said consumers now prefer rice varieties that are “long-grain, and taste and smell better when cooked.” The DA added that the rice should possess the “4M” characteristics: maganda, mura, mabango at malambot.
“An informal survey done by the rice industry groups showed that 40 percent of consumers prefer rice with said attributes,” it said.
“Millers and traders are thus one in saying that farmers should now plant varieties that have good milling and eating qualities, and preferred by consumers,” it added.
The DA said the rice traders and millers volunteered to help the DA in promoting recommended rice varieties that farmers should plant in the succeeding seasons.
Dar committed that he would meet with seed producers “to discuss the preferred rice varieties of consumers, and the desired levels of productivity that will provide farmers more income.”
“We have to make seed producers, farmers and other stakeholders understand that our overall strategy now is inclusive market-oriented development,” he said.
“Kung ano demand ng market, kung ano ang pangangailangan ng consuming public iyon ang dapat i-produce ng ating mga magsasaka. We need to adapt to changes brought about by the new regime,” he added.
Furthermore, Dar said the DA will hold dialogue with farmers, seed producers, traders, millers, and other stakeholders “to determine current industry trends, demand of the domestic retail market and institutional buyers, customers’ needs and wants, and needed policy shifts or reforms and government interventions.”
Image credits: Laila Austria