By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
The Philippines is expected to keep its status as the world’s top rice importer even as rice production is seen hitting record level this year after reaching its three-year low in 2019.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Operations Andrew Villacorta said that for 2020, local rice production is seen rising to a record 19.6 million metric tons (MT), which is around 7 percent higher from the 18.4 million MT forecast for 2019.
This, he said, will be backed by the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), the tariff collected from imported rice.
As part of the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, RCEF is supposed to be injected with ₱10 billion annually from 2019 to 2024 or a period of six years.
So far, RCEF has already bankrolled the distribution of inbred rice seeds across 46 provinces.
“The seed component of RCEF will already have an impact [in local rice production] this year. All the ₱3 billion allotted for seed program will be completely used. We will be able to distribute seeds for two planting seasons,” Villacorta said.
The mechanization component of RCEF, which has a budget of ₱5 billion, will also start this year.
Albeit still unofficial, an output of 18.4 million MT of locally produced rice for 2019 will be the country’s lowest output since 2016.
Data from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that from 2015 to 2018, palay production in the country was highest in 2017 at 19.28 million MT and lowest in 2016 at 17.63 million MT.
In 2018, palay production settled at 19.07 million MT due to several typhoons and El Niño.
“Our original target for 2019 was 19 million MT but because of typhoons, we are now forecasting just 18.4 million MT,” Villacorta said.