PHILIPPINES will export corn starting this year, Agriculture secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said.

Piñol revealed the positive projection last week noting yellow and white corn harvest for 2017 is expected to hit 8.1-million metric tons (MT), a surplus of about two million MT since the country’s domestic requirement is only 5.6-million MT.

“We are looking at surplus production of corn for this year, largely because very of the very ideal planting climate even amid typhoons. Also, the use of hybrid seeds help a lot. This year will be dramatic and historic for the corn industry,” Piñol in a press conference last Thursday, January 19, at the inauguration of a coconut processing plant in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur.

The Department of Agriculture is eyeing Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan as the potential export destinations of the country’s corn.

The development, Piñol said, is gained in spite of the series of natural calamities which hit the country’s agricultural areas recently, including the prolonged El Niño last year. This is the first time that the Philippines will achieve a 120 percent corn sufficiency.

National Corn Program coordinator, Assistant Secretary Federico Laciste, reported that, yellow and white corn harvest for 2016 reached 7.5-million MT while Cassava production was at 536,000 metric MT.

Piñol, in his Facebook post last January 19 stressed the production of Cassava is seen to contribute further in stabilizing the corn and animal feeds supply in the country.

“Corn production is expected to be boosted further with the approval and adoption last January 18 of the Solar-Powered Irrigation System based on the technical validation and recommendation of the DA’s (Department of Agriculture) Central Agriculture and Fisheries Engineering Division (Cafed)," he said.

"The adoption of drip irrigation using the Solar-Powered Irrigation System and the use of hybrid corn seeds were identified as priority measures in the National Corn Program,” Piñol added.

Irrigating corn fields, which is already being done in parts of Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley and Ilocos Region has proven to tremendously boost production per hectare which now has a national average of 4.7-metric tons per harvest.

Challenges seen

In the phase of surplus production, the agriculture chief said identifying a stable market is essential, adding that securing attracting price of corn needs to be looked at.

“When the prices of corn go down, chances are farmers will be discouraged to plant corn. The best motivator in agriculture will always be price, how much money the farmers make from a certain crop,” Piñol said.

The country's corn productivity is affected by the very low prices of corn during harvest season owing mainly to the lack of post-harvest facilities like dryers.

The export of corn to such countries as Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea could result in better prices for yellow corn and is expected to encourage farmers to plant more.

On January 23, during the Cabinet meeting, Piñol said he will officially ask President Rodrigo Duterte to order the National Food Authority (NFA), which is currently under the Office of the President, to amend the guideline which prohibits the export of corn unless the country achieves a 200 percent sufficiency.

“With the use of hybrid corn seeds, sufficient fertilizers, solar-powered irrigation system and efficient post-harvest facilities, the country's corn production could double during the next five years,” Piñol said.