DA confident of hitting 18.4-MMT palay target for 2012

By Marvyn N. Benaning, BusinessMirror

Posted at Dec 26 2012 08:26 AM | Updated as of Dec 26 2012 09:39 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the storms and heavy monsoon rains that hit the country this year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is confident its 2012 palay (unhusked rice) target of 18.4 million metric tons (MMT) will be met.

In a recent interview, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala expressed optimism about hitting the target since most of the palay in areas hit by Typhoon Pablo (international code name Bopha) were already harvested.

“Many of the farms could still recover. This is why we do not see palay output being a problem at the moment,” Alcala said.

The agriculture chief also said that after the monsoon rains, many farmers started on their third cropping “and for this reason, we are catching up.”

“In fact, the rice stands are good and may exceed the projected output,” he added.

Rice imports next year may go down to between 100,000 MT and 150,000 MT, according to Alcala. He stressed, though, that he may be wrong, since the matter will be analyzed by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council, which determines the import volume.

The Philippines is between 97-percent and 98-percent sufficient in rice, Alcala said, adding that he is sure the country would export certain rice varieties next year.

“We are just checking on the volume of our long-grain aromatic rice, heirloom rice from Mountain Province going to the United States, and colored [organic] rice. A company is also asking for a permit to export Japonica or SL 8 [rice],” the agriculture chief said.

“However, we have to be careful [on how many varieties we will export]. We will not lose on these exports, since we are exporting premium-quality rice and we are importing ordinary rice,” he added.

Alcala also said the palay production target for 2013 will be “more or less 20 MMT, based on our road map. We are implementing many interventions to [improve] the harvest. But we are not stopping on production alone and are seeking to tell our people about proper consumption.”

He said his department, at the policy level, is seeking to reverse the current output ratio of 40 percent for the dry season and 60 percent for the wet season, when typhoons generally hit the country.

“For this year, [it’s] 46 percent or 47 percent [for the] dry season [because of] early cropping,” Alcala said.

“If we could hit 55 percent, that would be better. If we have good post-harvest facilities, we could improve our output. We will be more comfortable if we have 60 percent for the dry season. With this, you would only be gambling on the 40 percent,” he added.

For corn, the agriculture chief said the expected output is 7.8 MMT, noting that the country registered the crop’s highest yield this year.

“While there was drought in the United States and Australia and corn prices rose in the world market, our corn is still cheap. Some corn farms in Bukidnon [province were in the flowering stage when these] were hit by Pablo, but still the corn stands are pretty good. Up to now, the corn in Cagayan at Isabela [provinces] are in the flowering stage. We are conducting cloud-seeding operations there, since there has been no rain [there] for several days,” the agriculture chief said.

He added that the corn situation is being studied by Assistant Secretary Edilberto de Luna, who will determine whether it is appropriate to export yellow corn next year.