The new chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the country’s ever-elusive dream of rice self-sufficiency remains attainable.
Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. on Thursday said the “dream of being rice sufficient is achievable.”
Laurel said the rice self-sufficiency goal will be attained through the help of science and technology as well as “harmonious working relationship” with other agencies and stakeholders.
“We just have to focus our efforts and synchronize with each other in implementing our rice programs with all agencies, local government units, and stakeholders,” he told rice experts and scientists from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija recently.
“The dream of being rice sufficient is achievable. We just have to work in harmony,” he added.
Laurel said he would not have agreed to join the Cabinet and accept the agriculture portfolio, if he “did not see any hope in the agriculture sector.”
He reiterated one of President Marcos Jr.’s marching orders for him, which is to increase domestic rice production.
Laurel said the DA, under his term, would embark on a “massive” modernization program that seeks to improve rice milling recovery from the current 62 percent and reduce post-harvest losses.
Last month, the BusinessMirror broke the story that the country’s self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) in rice fell to 77 percent in 2022, the lowest in more than two decades, as the country remained as one of the world’s largest importers of the staple.
Latest data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s rice SSR last year was lower than the 81.5 percent level recorded in 2021. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/10/10/rice-sufficiency-level-falls-to-24-year-low/)
Historical PSA data showed that last year’s rice SSR was the lowest in 24 years or since 1998, when it settled at 72.1 percent. This is the third time, since 1988, that the country’s rice SSR was below 80 percent.
Earlier, Agriculture Undersecretary for Industry Rice Development Leocadio S. Sebastian said the DA is targeting to achieve a rice self-sufficiency level of about 85 percent to 87 percent this year.