Gov't eyes 'Masagana 150' program to lower rice prices


Posted at Jul 21 2022 10:04 AM | Updated as of Jul 21 2022 10:20 AM

Talaandig farmer Adolfo Santos tills the land in Barangay Miarayon, Talakag town in Bukidnon on October 29, 2021. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News
Talaandig farmer Adolfo Santos tills the land in Barangay Miarayon, Talakag town in Bukidnon on October 29, 2021. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Department of Agriculture is looking into a "Masagana 150" program which targets producing 150 cavans of harvest per hectare, an official said Thursday.

Masagana 99 was a program of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. designed to increase rice production by giving farmers high-yielding rice varieties through loans. The policy was discontinued as it left farmers in deeper debts.

The Masagana 150 program will employ "new tech" to increase the yield, said Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista, who joined the agency in 2019.

"It's anchored in increasing the yield based on the tech we can avail of, and the tech we have but the idea is to reach that much as far as cavans is concerned...We're looking at how and when this can be implemented," she told ANC's Headstart.

"We plant in October, we harvest next year. To manage expectations, it’s not going to be harvested this year. If Masagana 150 will be implemented, we’re looking at it to bring down the price of rice and helping our farmers come up with better yield."

As for the program's sustainability, Evangelista said the Agriculture Credit Policy Council can help cooperatives by granting loans.

Former Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez, who served as President Corazon Aquino's Agriculture chief from 1987 to 1989, said "about 800 rural banks" were bankrupted by the Masagana 99 program

When asked about immediate relief for farmers, the official said "fertilizers and G2G (government-to-government) are being explored right now."

"We have a catchup plan that will be felt this year that is definitely going to happen," she said.

Government is also looking into turning more areas into agricultural land, including those in the metro, as its ultimate goal is to increase yield production, Evangelista said.

The Philippines' local supply of rice is at 12.37 million metric tons, while it imports 2.36 million metric tons, Evangelista added.

"There's a piece of land here in Quezon City where people are farming there already. We're bringing in younger farmers because they are innovative and adjust easily," she said.

"We're looking at state universities...we're looking at how to help them have a good yield so we can also supply even restaurants here in NCR (National Capital Region). What we can do here in NCR can be replicated in metro Davao."

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Rosendo So, president of agriculture group SINAG, said the proposed Masagana 150 was a "nice program" but questioned how it would be implemented.

"Dapat yung detalye ang maririnig natin," he said, adding that producing high-yielding seeds cannot be done in just a year.

(We need to hear the details.)

So said he has talked with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. three times so far. Marcos Jr is the first chief executive since former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who has talked to SINAG, he added.

"He also called me that he’s looking for the seed to increase the production, that's good. Second he said inputs [are] so high, farmers will use little fertilizers. I think he plans to have the G2G with other countries," he said.

So said he expects Marcos to "announce in his SONA (State of the Nation Address) to stop totally agri smuggling."

"Ito ang pinakamabigat na nakikita namin that will kill the local industry. Ang smuggled walang tariff, ang collection ng government mawawala and pinapatay ang local produced natin," he said.

(This is the biggest problem we see that will kill the local industry. Smuggled goods have no tariff, there's no government collection and it kills our local industry.)

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