THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said a program to expand rice output and minimize post-harvest losses would require investment of about P1.3 trillion over a number of years.
“The Philippines needs to invest at least P1.3 trillion over the next few years to boost rice production, reduce wastage of agricultural products, and ensure food security,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr., said in a statement on Wednesday.
He added that the funds will support irrigation projects for over 1.2 million hectares of farmland.
The proposed amount is equivalent to nearly a quarter of the 2024 national budget of P5.77 trillion.
Mr. Laurel said on Tuesday that the DA will start investing in more post-harvest facilities for rice and corn.
He said that the DA would need about P93 billion over the next three years to make a dent into post-harvest losses of about P10.7 billion, equivalent to 23 days of rice consumption.
The DA is hoping that output of palay or unmilled rice this year does not fall below 20 million metric tons, equal to the production target in 2023.
Part of the DA’s plan to reduce food waste is to build more cold storage facilities to stockpile vegetables and high-value crops, with which it hopes to smooth out supply in periods of shortage or take excess produce off the market during bumper crops.
The DA has allocated P1 billion for funding such projects in 2024, with a projected requirement of another P5 billion over the next three years.
Its first facility to be constructed will rise on a 1.3-hectare site at the Food Terminal, Inc. (FTI) complex in Taguig City at a cost of about P500 million.
“The 5,000-pallet position cold storage facility in FTI will take at least 12 months to complete,” the DA said.
Mr. Laurel said local governments should take the lead in assessing supply conditions for vegetables and high-value crops, citing the devolution of some agricultural functions.
“The DA will assist, nonetheless, in resolving these perennial problems,” he added.
He has that in the past 40 years, there has been no significant government investment in post-harvest facilities. — Adrian H. Halili