The Philippines, currently the world’s largest rice importer, hopes to be self-sufficient in the staple in three years, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Monday.
Ending reliance on rice imports is the biggest challenge contained in an agriculture sector review ordered by newly inaugurated President Benigno Aquino, said Alcala.
“In three years, zero imports in rice,” he said.
Rice production in the Philippines already fell more than 3.0 percent last year after a series of major storms damaged crops, the government said.
The review will include a full inventory of rice supplies and an assessment of irrigation development, post-harvest facilities and farm-to-market roads.
Alcala added that the review would also look at providing more financial support to rice farmers, especially in buying seeds, but stressed this did not mean “dole-outs” and farmers would have to meet their financial obligations.
Earlier this year, at a forum hosted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Laguna, south of Manila, experts agreed that the Philippines could become self-sufficient in rice.
This would require improved varieties, fertilisers, irrigation and more government support, they said.
The government made large tenders in a tight global market late last year to head off possible shortages of rice, the staple food in the impoverished nation of more than 90 million people.
The Agriculture Department previously warned that rice harvests this year could be sharply down due to a drought brought on by the El Nino weather phenomenon.