“The Philippines could become self-sufficient in rice now if farmers adopted existing technologies such as improved varieties, and know-how,” said the deputy director general for research at IRRI, Dr. Achim Dobermann.
“This could raise yields 1-3 tons per hectare, allowing the Philippines to become self-sufficient in rice,” he added. “Future increases in rice production to keep up with predicted consumption could be delivered through other scientific advances.”
Citing an example in South America where farmers nearly doubled their rice production in five years by developing and paying for a professional agronomy extension system to provide advice on how to grow rice better, Dr. Dobermann said, “Farmers can go a long way toward helping themselves, but governments also have a role to play, for example, in the Philippines, better irrigation infrastructure would be beneficial.”
He emphasized the importance of investing in nutrient management, including strategic fertilizer applications, “if you want to grow more grain, you have to give the plant more nutrients. In the Philippines, smarter nutrient management combined with an investment of US$50 million in fertilizer could result in a savings of $300 million in rice imports.”
Dr. Sergio Francisco, chief science research specialist and program leader for Impact and Policy Research at PhilRice, outlined progress towards the Philippine government’s Rice Self-Sufficiency Plan (RSSP) and said that “with a business-as-usual scenario, that is, assuming a sustained natural growth in production of 3.68% per year, rice self-sufficiency can be achieved in 2017.
“With the RSSP, self sufficiency can be achieved provided, sufficient government investment in irrigation, research and development, and extension are provided,” he added.
Population, limited land area, erratic weather, and the need for support services to assist farmers were noted by Mr. Julian Lapitan, senior manager of the National Programs Relations, IRRI, as challenges in the way of rice self sufficiency.
Mr. Lapitan also called on all future leaders to commit to the Rice Self-Sufficiency Plan to help ensure its success.
The media forum “Can the Philippines be self-sufficient in rice?” was held as part of IRRI’s alumni homecoming that is scheduled all this week, and a series of other activities to celebrate IRRI’s 50th anniversary, including the 50th anniversary meeting last week of IRRI’s Board of Trustees.
Also last week, two historical markers were unveiled, one in Filipino and one in English, at IRRI by representatives from the National Historical Institute of the Philippines including Executive Director Ludovico Badoy; IRRI’s Director General Dr. Robert Zeigler; and Mr. Faustino Salacup – the second Filipino who was employed at IRRI.
In addition, Mr. Hector Villanueva, the postmaster general and chief executive officer of the Philippine Postal Corporation, announced the issuance of a set of four stamps to commemorate IRRI’s 50th anniversary.
And, in recognition of IRRI’s pioneers – those staff and board members of IRRI who worked for or served IRRI between 1959 and February 1962, two plaques were unveiled outside IRRI’s Riceworld Muesum.
IRRI’s 50th anniversary celebrations aim to raise awareness about the importance of rice to global food security, and how rice research can increase rice production in a sustainable way and improve the welfare of rice farmers and consumers.