By Myriam G. Layaoen, DA StratComms

As water is an essential input to increase any crop production output, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will partner with the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to attain optimum levels of planting and production activities this coming main rice cropping season, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are pleased that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved our recommendation that government shall pursue the optimum level of rice production with the support of the NIA, as well as the prepositioning of needed farm inputs like quality seeds and fertilizers for early planting,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

The DA-NIA partnership was highlighted in IATF Resolution No. 24, citing the importance of timely and sufficient water availability this main rice season.

“The release of irrigation water should be in synch with land preparation and planting activities, as we aim to boost palay (paddy rice) production by 2020 to 22.12 million metric tons (MMT), equivalent to 13.51 MMT of rice, or 93 percent sufficiency, six percent more than last year’s adequacy level of 87 percent,” the DA chief added.

“We need to provide complete nourishment to our crops to achieve their optimum performance. We cannot grow anything without water,” Dar said.

“Many of our farmers rely on national irrigation systems, managed by NIA. Thus, it plays a vital role in ensuring the timely release of water enough to supply each locality, especially those at the tail end of irrigation canals,” he explained.

A study of the DA’s Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) showed that access to irrigation water, adoption of high-quality seeds and modern technologies, and farm mechanization are the major drivers of farm productivity.

Irrigated farms produce higher yields, at an average of 4.43 metric tons (MT) of palay per hectare (ha), 1.3 MT more than rainfed areas, at 3.13 MT/ha, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Under its Rice Resiliency Project (RRP), one of the components of the Plant, Plant, Plant Program, the DA aims to provide farmers quality inbred and hybrid seeds, fertilizers and package of technologies, covering 2.7 million hectares nationwide.

The RRP covers 1.2 million ha under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to be planted to inbred rice; 550,000 hectares planted to hybrid; and additional 950,000 hectares to inbred rice.

“In all, we are extremely pleased with the strong support of President Duterte and the IATF to continuously prop up the country’s agriculture and fisheries sector, and our frontliners — the farmers, fishers, agri-fishery processing facility workers, and agri entrepreneurs — as we all believe that food security is a major strategy in our war against COVID-19,” Dar concluded.

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