By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

Kadiwa distribution hub and cold storage facility in Taguig City (Photo courtesy of FTI)

MANILA – The Philippines needs to invest at least PHP1.3 trillion over the next few years to boost rice production, reduce wastage of agricultural products and ensure the country’s food security.

In a news release on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel Jr. said irrigation of 1.2 million hectares of farm lands, planted mainly with rice, would require PHP1.2 trillion in capital spending.

“No major post-harvest facility was funded by government in the last 40 years. Puro maliliit, patingitingi, which is actually irrelevant, useless. Sayang (Mostly small, retail, which is actually irrelevant, useless. A waste),” he said.

“We need really to fund these projects. But we must build bigger. We have three designs — small, medium and large, not mini.”

Tiu-Laurel said integrated rice mill and warehouse complexes must be built which will cost around PHP90 billion over several years. This would reduce an estimated 15 percent in losses in rice due to the lack of post-harvest facilities.

However, such establishments will save around PHP10.7 billion worth of rice or an additional 23 days of rice inventory, which is equivalent to around 10 percent of rice imports based on last year’s figures.

Tiu-Laurel reported that PHP1 billion has been allocated early this year to build four cold storage facilities –primarily at the Food Terminal Inc. Complex in Taguig City– to partly address the recurrent oversupply and wastage of vegetables in parts of Luzon alone.

According to traders, transporting vegetables from Benguet to Metro Manila results in 30 percent losses that are eventually passed on to consumers.

“If we try to solve the problem as soon as possible, assuming a target of 2025, I need an additional PHP5 billion to address the vegetable cold-storage issue of the whole nation,” he said.

The 5,000-pallet position cold storage facility in FTI will take at least 12 months to complete.

While the Department of Agriculture will provide continued assistance, Tiu-Laurel said oversupply of vegetables and high-value crops must be addressed mainly by the local government units. (PNA)