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Agriculture chief: Abundant rice, meals for holidays

/ 02:49 AM November 10, 2011

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. Inquirer file photo

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ—For Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, this Christmas  will “not only bring an abundance of rice to dining tables, but also abundant meals.”

Highlighting the weeklong celebration of the 26th anniversary of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) here on Tuesday, Alcala boasted that the country had a buffer supply of rice, pork, chicken, and vegetables until February next year.

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“We are concentrating [our resources on programs that] go beyond the threshold of meeting the local supply of food and we are projecting to go beyond our borders. Actually, I have talked with two groups which are already working on [exporting] our products,” he said at a news conference.

The country has started exporting vegetables to Singapore, and will be shipping vegetables and meat soon to China, according to Alcala.

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He also said that President Benigno Aquino III was increasing the 2012 budget of the Department of Agriculture by 60 percent.

“I think our department is getting the biggest or second-biggest budget increase. I think the President is happy about the development in agriculture and about the correct numbers I am submitting to him on the agriculture situation in the country,” Alcala said.

However, he said the country would still import rice in 2012, although the volume would now be reduced substantially despite the reduced palay harvest this year.

“We are just being honest. We are simply monitoring and reporting the actual situation of our food industry and this gives our President peace of mind,” he said.

Drive against corruption

Alcala said corruption would also be curbed under his watch. He said  he had discouraged the distribution of seed and fertilizer subsidies, after concluding that these subsidies had become “the source of graft and corruption.”

Previous subsidies were in the form of high-priced sacks “labeled as certified rice seeds,” but which actually contained ordinary seeds, he said.

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“The subsidies are no guarantee for good outputs from farmers. The best proof was our experience this year. Had it not been for the two typhoons, we could have obtained the highest palay yield ever in the country and yet there were no seed and fertilizer subsidies,” he said.

Shortly before Alcala’s visit, some 200 officials and members of  Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP), Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), Masipag and Resist AgroChemical Transnational Corporations held a rally at the PhilRice gate.

They protested the planned field-testing here of Golden Rice, which they classified as “a genetically modified rice that will kill many [people when it introduces new diseases to the environment],” said Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary general.

Alternative crop

Each grain of Golden Rice is genetically designed to produce beta-carotene, and has been bred in the country.

“Golden Rice will only make transnational corporations richer because of the cost of seeds and inputs that this variety would need for [mass production],” said Alfie Pulumbarit, Masipag advocacy officer.

Antonio Alfonso, head of the PhilRice Golden Rice research team, said the grains were “a cheap alternative crop that could reach many poor people even in remote areas.”

Golden Rice that is ready for field-testing would be planted like the ordinary rice variety and that farmers could produce their own seeds, he said.

“As for [Golden Rice’s supposed] hazard to humans, animals, and the environment … the Bureau of Plant Industry [has convened a] scientific and review panel that is evaluating the new grain,” Alfonso said.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Christmas, DA, Food security, Holidays, Proceso Alcala, rice
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