MANILA - The Philippines aims to increase rice production by as much as 6.5 percent next year after an expected fall in this year's output, with state spending to boost crop yields helping to offset possible losses from the El Nino dry weather condition, a senior official said on Tuesday.
Higher domestic output, however, does not mean the Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice importers, will not import the grain any more, with the government finalizing plans to buy an additional 250,000 tonnes before the year ends, Francis Pangilinan, the country's food security chief, told a congressional budget hearing.
The government was reviewing the latest production forecast for 2015 to see if there was a need to buy more before El Nino intensifies further in the last quarter.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said at the same hearing that the target next year is to harvest as much as 20.09 million tonnes.
That compares with the 18.86 million tonnes output that the government statistics agency has projected for this year, below last year's record harvest of 18.97 million tonnes.
Alcala said the country will still need to import rice to ensure it has a comfortable buffer stock, especially during the annual lean harvest season that usually starts in July.
Pangilinan, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the budget hearing, said the government's Food Security Council, composed of the country's economic managers, will soon finalize its rice import plans for the rest of the year.
The Southeast Asian country expects to miss its 2015 production target after dry weather linked to the El Nino phenomenon, expected to intensify in the last quarter, hurt the first-half harvest.