Agri chief stands firm to no rice subsidy

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) will not restore rice subsidies for farmers all over the country. The reports were merely misinterpreted.

The statements quoted from Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala during an interview at the Fisheries and Agriculture 2025 summit in Antipolo City last week about the restoration of rice subsidies was plain misunderstanding.

Agriculture Undersecretary Joel Rudinas explained in an interview that the Secretary was referring to an on-going project called the Rapid Seed Supply Financing Project or RaSSFiP was put on hold for some time in December 2010.

Undersecretary Rudinas said the project was part of the Rapid Food Production Enhancement Programme (RaFPEP), an assistance jointly supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Union, and the Government of the Philippines, as offshoot of the food crisis in 2008 that the Department has put in place in late 2009, but is hoped to be completed by the end of 2011.

The program calls for the provision of support to farmers by providing 50 percent of the cost of certified palay seeds per hectare or P600 per 40-kg bag of rice certified seeds, while the farmers come up with their counterpart of 50 percent.  “In so many instances, the local government helps out the farmers in covering the farmers’ equity,” Rudinas said.

Under the RaSSFiP, the DA shall distribute 803,750 bags of certified seeds of palay.  DA started implementing this in 2009, and we hope to complete the whole distribution process by March 2011, but we are requesting for an extension to allow us until the end of 2011 to distribute the seeds.

”Right now we are projecting that after March 15 we might still have a stock of approximately 200,000 bags, which can be distributed during the start of the wet season,” he added, in reference to the palay seeds for distribution that Secretary Alcala was referring to in the media briefing

Out of the 803,750 we have distributed almost 600,000 bags of seeds by March 15, equivalent to some 74.8 percent of the areas eyed for distribution areas eyed for distribution are those which produce below the national average of 3.8 metric tons of rice per hectare, specifically in Regions 4A, 4B, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 13.  The other regions have already a high rice yield, Rudinas said.

The real thrust of  the department is to invest in longer-lasting, productivity- enhancing investments such as irrigation, which will improve the quality of the resource base to be used in the production process.

It shall also invest in a seed bank system which is community based and sustainable in the long run and work further on research and development to allow the country the means by which it can face the challenges of climate change.

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