RICE SEEDLINGS. Farm workers throw bundles of rice seedlings in a paddy field in preparation for planting in Población II, Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday (June 21, 2022). The group of farm workers were hired to plant the seedlings the next day. (MNS photo)

MANILA, June 21 (Mabuhay) — Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Tuesday said while he is supporting President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s goal to reduce the prices of rice to P20 per kilo, P27.5 per kilo is “the nearest we can do by now.”

“The nearest we can do by now — I can be given other figures if you have better way of doing it — P27.50 is the nearest,” Dar said during a press conference.

According to Dar, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has started “conceptualizing” how to reach or come near the P20/kg target and has arrived at some suggestions.

On of these, he said, is adopting the Masagana 99, a program of Marcos’ father, late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Under the program, the government will aim to raise the country’s average rice crop yield to 99 kaban per hectare, with farmers utilizing  newly developed technologies.

Currently, the national average for both inbred and hybrid rice is at 4.5 metric tons per hectare, which is less than 100 kaban, according to Dar.

“So that must be the aspiration there before. Now let’s go beyond that aspiration. So for inbred rice meron kaming konseptong [we have a concept of] Masagana 150,” he said, pointing out that this is equivalent to 7.5 metric tons per hectare.

For hybrid rice, Dar said they are planning to have Masagana 200.

Agri sector in crisis

Also on Tuesday, incoming Socioeconomic Planning secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan said the Philippines’ agriculture sector is already in crisis, citing the soaring prices not only of rice but also of meat.

“Rice prices have also been a problem that while the tariffication has brought down the cap of prices quite a bit, they are still high and the issues that concern farmers, the low profitability of rice farming in agriculture and farming in general, have to be faced. So with that I would say that our agriculture is in crisis,” he said in a television interview.

Balisacan’s remark came after Marcos announced that he would sit as DA secretary “for now,” saying that he is giving high priority to the issues besetting the agriculture sector. (MNS)

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