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RP needs P62.5b to end chronic rice lack - DA
 
27 September, 1998 MANILA STANDARD

by Rhea P. Sandique
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Irrigation Project
       For the country to sop the chronic shortfall in rice production and become self-sufficient of the staple grain, the government has to spend at least P12.5 billion in annual capital outlay for farm irrigation in the next five years.
     That amount or a total of P62.5 billion will build irrigation facilities and increase the hectarage of rice farms by 600.000 hectares to at least three million hectares, accordint ot the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
      At present, there are about 1.4 million hectares of irrigated farmland. Of that area, however, only 60-70 percent of which is efficient, accordingto the Department of Agriculture (DA).
       NIA has to put up large and medium-scale irrigation systems that can serve an additonal 100,00 to 150,000 hectares every year for the next six years.
       This would require a yearly budget of NIA of about P12.5 billion.
       It is projected that once additional irrigation systems have been put into place, the area planted to rice can be increase towfold to four million hectares.
      This means the country would have a total of 5.5 million hectares of farmslands including rainfed area of at least 1.5 million hectares.
       At a conservative yield of three tons per hectare for palay, this total irrigated farmland would yield 16.5 million tons of palay per year or 10.25 million tons of rice (milled palay).
       Last year, the country produced only a total of 11.2 million MT of palay and the government had to resort to importation of commodity to make up for the shortfall in domestic supply.
       For this year, the country has already secured 2.1 million MT of imported rice.
       The rice supply shortfall was brought on by the El Niño drought which prevented planting in non-irrigated farmlands.
       To accelerate the rehabilitation of the existing irrigation systems, the DA si preseently conducting a performance audit of existing irrigation systems.
       Such evaluation will cover all national, communal and private irrigation systems including smalll irrigation projects.
      DA officials explained that assessment results will be used as a basis in determining the course of future policy decisions on the government's irrigation program.
       Officials claimed that about 30 to 35 percent of the country'w irrigation systems are not in good working condition and that they actually need repairs having been adversely affected by heavy siltation and erosion.
       The government plans to set up additional irrigation facilities in Mindanao, which is being developed as the country's food bow.
       Because of its good soil and typhoon-protected location, Mindanao is deemed as most conducive for agriculture production.


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