Lesser rice imports to positively impact Negrense farmers – DA

Erwin P. Nicavera

THE directive of President Rodrigo Duterte that rice importation should only be done after the harvest season, or if there is shortfall is seen to positively impact Negrense farmers, the top official of the Department of Agriculture in Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) said.

DA-NIR Regional Director Joyce Wendam, who spoke at the third Regional Management Committee (RMC) Meeting held at the Community Center in Bago City Monday, said lower rice imports would strengthen the local market.

“The strong market will also boost rice farmers in the region as it will relatively lessen the competition,” Wendam said, adding that “lesser imports means more assured market for local harvests.”

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, in his Facebook post, had earlier said that in the past, when rice importation was made at peak harvest season, traders would use this as an excuse to drop the buying price of paddy rice ranging from P14 to P20 per kilogram, or even P12 per kilogram.

With the President’s announcement to defer rice importation, Piñol said the buying price of paddy rice has gone to as high as P21 per kilogram or an increase of between P7 and P9 per kilogram of the previous seasons.

“The President has also ordered the National Food Authority to buy the paddy rice produce of Filipino farmers and import only if there is a shortfall,” the DA chief said, adding that at current buying price of P21 per kilogram, local farmers’ income for first quarter was pegged at almost P74 billion.

Citing the data from the Philippine Rice Information System, Piñol said a total of 4.14 million metric tons were harvested from an area of 997,687 hectares nationwide during the first quarter of the year.

The figure is higher compared to only 3.93 million metric tons from a bigger area of 1.081 million hectares during the same period last year.

For NIR, Wendam said they have yet to check with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) the region's first quarter rice production.

With no major calamities during the period, the agency is optimistic that there is an increase in production for first three months this year, she added.

Moreover, the DA-NIR urged anew farmers in the region to continue improving their respective productions to help the country achieve 100 percent rice sufficiency target that will result to zero importation.

Wendam said the agency has been urging Negrense farmers to practice corporate rice farming, use of high-yielding varieties, and employment of cost-saving technologies.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary for the Visayas and Regulations Hansel Didulo, who was present during the RMC meeting, said that sustainably increasing productivity is one of the agency's thrust and priorities.

Didulo said included in DA's programs and plans are accelerating construction of climate-resilient small-scale irrigation systems and retrofit existing ones, intensive technology updating and sharing, modernization and mechanization.

“There is also a need to raise investments on research and development, technology development and strengthening of extension system,” he added.