Lack of Irrigation Hampers RP Rice Production–NRFC

November 1, 2010

Jennifer Ng
Business Mirror
November 1, 2010

The lack of irrigated lands planted to rice is the key reason for the Philippines’ inability to catch up with neighboring countries like Vietnam in producing enough of the staple for Filipinos, the National Rice Farmers’ Council (NRFC) said.

Jaime Tadeo, president of NRFC, also said that in terms of productivity and technological know-how, Filipino farmers are at par with their Vietnamese and Thai counterparts.

“We have to put things in perspective. Vietnam has 7 to 8 million hectares of farmlands devoted to palay. Thailand devotes 9.9 to 10 million hectares to palay. Also, these two countries get [irrigation water] from the Mekong Delta,” said Tadeo in a telephone interview.

“The Philippines, which has a population of 94 million, has a crop area of only 3.1 million hectares [for palay],” Tadeo said.

Tadeo attributed this mainly to the government’s irrigation development policy for the last 10 years which failed to expand the areas planted to palay.

Also, the NRFC head noted that 85 percent of the watershed of irrigation systems in the country are already denuded.

A watershed is vital for irrigation systems as it collects rainfall and can store water in various amounts and for different periods.

Tadeo issued his statements in reaction to the pronouncement of President Aquino that the Philippines can learn a thing or two from Vietnam about the “efficient use of land and agricultural equipment.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said that what the Philippines can learn from Vietnam is the “proper implementation” of agricultural programs.

“The difference between Vietnam and the Philippines is the effective implementation of their policy. We taught them what they know, so the technology and knowledge are already at hand. What we need is a strong resolve to address agricultural issues that have been hounding us for decades,” said Pangilinan, who is the Senate chairman of the Committee on Agriculture.

The solon said that increasing the income of farmers and fisherfolk is key to ensuring food security in the Philippines.  

Dr. Rolando Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s Center for Food and Agribusiness (UAP-CFA), said that among the policies that can help address rural poverty is the expansion of market-led diversification.

In a paper he wrote, Dy noted that over the last 25 years, the Philippines has only Cavendish banana and pineapples as significant new exports. Vietnam, he said, has been able to diversify its exports.

“Vietnam has a much longer list–rice, coffee, dory fish, cashew, pepper and shrimp,” he said.

Pangilinan said the Aquino administration now has a “golden opportunity” to lay down a clear vision for agriculture and fisheries modernization.  

“We cannot achieve a developed-nation status in the next 15 years unless we create more jobs and wealth in the agriculture and fisheries sector,” he said.

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