THE Department of Agriculture (DA) plans to set up solar-powered irrigation systems nationwide to improve rice production.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, in a press statement, said the lack of proper irrigation system is one of the reasons that rice production cannot cope with demand, compounded by increasing population.

He also said out of the 3.9 million hectares of rice land nationwide, only 1.2 million hectares have access to communal irrigation systems that allow the farmers to plant rice twice a year. In the remaining 2.7 million hectares, farmers primarily rely on rainfall and rice is planted only once a year.

“The Philippines is blessed with so many rivers, tributaries, lakes and almost six months of rain, not to mention typhoons which bring rain and even floods, every year. Yet, 120 years after the Department of Agriculture was created in 1898, the country only has 1.2-million hectares of rice fields currently serviced by irrigation systems,” he said.

He added with the 1.9 percent annual population growth and an annual per capita consumption of kilos, there is the need to produce 221,000 kilos more to achieve rice sufficiency.

The DA plans to ask P20 billion allocation from Congress for the project starting next year. Each system would pump up 400-1,000 gallons of water a day for up to 150 hectares of rice farm.

DA-Davao Region, for its part, said they hope that the region will be getting its share, being a rice-producing region. But it expects that DA will prioritize areas that have large non-irrigated lands. DA-Davao Region clarified that this is a flagship project of the department and not the National Irrigation Association (NIA).

The DA will start with the distribution and setting-up of solar-powered irrigation system in farming communities all over the country in 2018.