CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga - The Philippines is on the edge of transforming from being the world's top rice importer to being self-sufficient in rice in 2013, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has predicted.
Alcala, the keynote speaker during the National Rice Summit here, said "there is a big chance of achieving self-sufficiency next year as our target irrigated areas are on track to be finished by the end of 2012."
Alcala also noted the "simultaneous interventions we have implemented since the assumption of President Aquino into power such as improving the quality of rice seeds, provision of post-harvest facilities and farm mechanization."
Agencies under the Department of Agriculture (DA) are running several campaigns that aim to educate the public on the proper consumption of rice and encourage them to try other staples like corn, he said.
"What makes us different from the past administration is that we directly listen to the pleas of farmers and we think of long-term solutions to our problem such as building dams and not simply be satisfied with importing rice. No less than the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations cited our reforms," Alcala said.
He said 100 percent rice self-sufficiency in 2013 may not be attainable immediately "but for sure next year we will try to export some of our rice varieties specifically the basmati which is in demand in Middle East countries."
Around 500 rice farming practitioners, researchers, scientists, advocates and enthusiasts from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao attended the two-day National Rice Summit in Clark Freeport which was organized by the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology in partnership with DA, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Rice Research Institute, National Irrigation Administration and Central Luzon State University.
The conference seeks to know the state of rice production in the country and identify the factors that contribute to the decrease and increase in production as well as serve as an avenue in the sharing of experiences, practices and trends in rice production and in realizing the primary objective of achieving rice self-sufficiency in the country.
Among the topics that were discussed were Global and National Rice Situations, Effects of Climate Change on Rice Production, Land Use and Conversion and the Impact on Rice Sufficiency, Production Technology Development on Rice Security, Infrastructure Development Updates, State of Farm Mechanization and Post Harvest Facilities, Rice Procurement and Marketing Assistance, Credit and Cooperative Support, and Extension and Information Services.