MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is proposing a 31 percent increase in its 2017 budget with bulk of it set aside for the country’s rice production program.
“The new budget request I submitted to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for 2017 is P71 billion,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.
For this year, the DA has an aggregate budget of P54 billion.
Of the P71 billion, P31 billion will be allocated for the Rice Productivity Enhancement (RIPE) program in line with the goal of achieving 100 percent rice self-sufficiency for the country.
“That already includes the first tranche of the three-year rice program. We will focus on rice production including seeds, inputs, new areas, irrigation projects and fertilizers,” he said.
Piñol originally planned to reach 100 percent rice self-sufficiency in 2018 but moved it due to the availability of enough funds.
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“It was moved because there is no available fund right now. Secretary Diokno said that while there are funds left, we cannot use that because it has been allotted for prior projects,” Piñol said.
“Now, I can lay the groundwork for the full implementation next year,” he added.
Piñol said the DA would also need a P64 billion budget over the next three years to reach the goal by 2019.
The agency is targeting to produce 18.5 million metric tons of rice next year; 20.3 million MT in 2018 and 21.6 million MT in 2019, reaching the 100 percent self-sufficiency level.
“The economic minds will say that we should just import. Yes, that is applicable before when there was still no threat of climate change,” he said.
“But, we’ve seen the impact of El Niño in the agriculture sector and the food supply. The climate change has changed the scene. Before, drought would happen in six to seven years but now it narrowed down to a two to three year interval,” Piñol added.
“What if the entire Southeast Asia is hit by climate change or El Niño, we may have the money but where are we going to buy the rice?” he said.
The DA has intended to come up with grain surplus stocks at any give time to avoid food riot in the country especially when natural phenomena occur.
“I’m not saying that it would happen in the next six years. But our vision towards the end of this administration is to establish grain silos all over the country particularly in critical areas which will hold supply good for six months,” Piñol said.