PHILIPPINES-  The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) of the Philippines anticipates achieving rice sufficiency in 2028, buoyed by an anticipated increase in palay production this year, despite challenges posed by the El Niño weather phenomenon. 

Acting NIA Administrator Eduardo Guillen expressed confidence in the country’s ability to enhance rice production through strategic measures, including the adoption of innovative agricultural technologies.

Guillen emphasized the importance of implementing alternate wetting and drying technology to mitigate the impact of El Niño on vulnerable agricultural lands. By prioritizing high-yielding varieties, such as hybrid rice, the Philippines aims to significantly boost yields even during dry seasons. 

Guillen cited notable successes, with hybrid rice yields doubling to impressive figures ranging from four to ten tons per hectare in certain regions, including Central Luzon and areas covered by the Magat Dam in Isabela.

Significantly, the vulnerability of agricultural lands to El Niño has been reduced, with only 10,000 hectares in the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System now susceptible compared to the previous 50,000 hectares. 

Guillen highlighted NIA’s efforts to provide irrigation to a majority of irrigable lands, particularly those with a gentle slope, which constitute a substantial portion of the country’s agricultural landscape.

In pursuit of long-term sustainability, NIA is implementing a comprehensive strategy encompassing short-term, medium-term, and long-term projects aimed at expanding irrigation infrastructure nationwide. 

Guillen outlined plans for the establishment of reservoir-type dams and diversion dams as part of the short-term initiatives to address immediate irrigation needs.

However, despite achieving a historic palay harvest of 20.6 million metric tons in 2023, concerns persist regarding the country’s local rice deficit. 

Raul Montemayor, National Manager of the Federation of Free Farmers, highlighted the challenges posed by increasing demand due to population growth, outpacing the growth in rice output. 

While the record-high harvest in 2023 is commendable, Montemayor stressed the need for a comprehensive analysis to identify underlying issues hindering cost-effective results from government interventions in the agricultural sector.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) reported a marginal increase of 1.5 percent in palay output in 2023 compared to the previous year. Despite efforts to boost local production, the country imported at least 3.6 million metric tons of rice in 2023 to address the persistent deficit.

As the Philippines continues its journey towards rice sufficiency, stakeholders remain committed to overcoming challenges and implementing sustainable strategies to ensure food security for the nation.

For all the latest grains industry news from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our weekly NEWSLETTERS, follow us on LinkedIn, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.