President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel Jr., on February 3, met farmers, local government leaders and officials of the Department of Agriculture in Pampanga to sustain the push for agricultural modernization and increased food production in the face of El Niño.
Around 600 farmers and officials gathered at a rice field in Candaba where President Marcos and Secretary Tiu Laurel showcased the cutting-edge technology of rice combine harvester, an example of machinery that the DA has been distributing to farmers to reduce cost, improve farm productivity and, consequently, raise incomes.
“Inaasahan natin na ang okasyong ito ay magsisilbing hudyat sa patuloy na paglago hindi lamang sa industriya ng palay kundi maging ng buong sektor ng agrikultura sa susunod na mga buwan. Nais kong ibahagi sa inyo ang kahanga-hangang tagumpay ng ating sektor ng agrikultura noong nakaraang taon,” said President Marcos. “Dahil sa ating sama-samang pagsisikap, nagtamo tayo ng tala ng ani noong 2023 na umaabot sa mahigit 20 milyong metric tons ng palay.”
(“We expect that this occasion will signal the steady growth not only of the rice industry but the entire agriculture sector in the coming months. I’d like to inform you of the triumph that our sector had last year,” said President Marcos. “Because of our combined efforts, we managed to harvest in 2023 a record volume of more than 20 million metric tons of (unhusked) rice.”
President Marcos attributed the 1.5 percent increase in rice production last year to the DA’s distribution of better rice seeds and fertilizers.
Because of the record harvest last year, the country managed to lower the volume of imported rice to 3.5 million from 3.8 million in 2022.
The president said the challenge this year to the government’s effort to increase food production is the prolonged dry spell that could be caused by El Niño. He said, however, that interventions are underway to mitigate its impact.
In the long run, President Marcos said, the government will distribute more solar-powered irrigation systems to provide steady supply of water to an additional 180,000 hectares of rice land which should translate to 1.2 million metric tons of palay, reducing further the volume of rice the country imports.
He said government has set aside P31 billion this year for DA’s national rice program which plans to spend for post-harvest facilities, extension services, research and development, and irrigation services.
The rice harvester distribution is part of the projects financed by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. For this year, government set aside P10 billion for RCEF or Rice Fund to promote productivity and competitiveness of rice farmers by providing machinery and equipment, rice seeds, extension service and credit assistance.
Also at the event in Candaba, President Marcos led the distribution of more than P22 million worth of farm inputs and equipment, rice seeds, fertilizer vouchers, post-harvest facilities, and financial capital to farmers cooperatives and for hog repopulation to address the adverse impact on the industry of the African Swine Fever.
Among those awarded to farmers, cooperatives and associations were:
– P5 million warehouse with mechanical dryer
– P11 million assistance for two hog repopulation programs
⁃P1 million for working capital of two farmer groups
⁃P3 million to provide multi-purpose cooperative working capital and funds for the purchase of hauling trucks
⁃P1.3 million for the distribution of certified rice seeds.
Agriculture Secretary Tiu Laurel said the DA is working overtime to increase farm production, particularly of rice, inspite of the threat of a prolonged dry spell due to El Niño to ensure that the country is food secure. ###