THE top official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Western Visayas has expressed optimism that the region will have positive growth in terms of rice production this year amid the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

DA-Western Visayas Regional Executive Director Remelyn Recoter said the trend in the region's rice output this year has been increasing.

Recoter said the regional line agency noted an increase of about 81,000 metric tons (MT) during the first semester of this year compared to the same period in 2019.

The increase, she said, moved up to about 200,000 MT in the third quarter, even prior to the harvest season in October.

"Given the trend, we expect a positive growth rate, a double-digit growth actually, for rice for the fourth quarter up to January next year," Recoter added.

The DA official challenged local farmers to continue what they have started, assuring them that the government is there to support them.

It can be recalled that the agriculture sector posted a positive growth in the last two quarters amid restrictions imposed in light of the Covid-19 threat.

On a national level, there was a growth rate of 1.6 percent and 1.2 percent in the country's agriculture sector in the second and third quarters, respectively.

Recoter said there's an expected increase in production as the DA has already distributed rice seeds with fertilizer components during the wet season as well as this cropping.

Recoter, however, said there's a need to make sure that the gains of 2020 will be sustained in 2021 as the pandemic remains uncertain.

"We really have to ensure food security," she said, stressing that the agriculture sector plays an important role in this fight against Covid-19.