New DA chief: P20 per kilo rice not yet possible

MANILA. Newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary Franciso Tiu Laurel Jr. (right) attends his first flag raising ceremony on November 6, 2023 at the DA Central Office in Quezon City.
MANILA. Newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary Franciso Tiu Laurel Jr. (right) attends his first flag raising ceremony on November 6, 2023 at the DA Central Office in Quezon City.DA photo

NEWLY assumed Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. expressed apprehension on Monday, November 6, 2023, on the possibility of the country having rice worth P20 per kilo, one of the campaign promises of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In a press conference, Laurel said with all the global events affecting the price of basic commodities, achieving P20 per kilo of rice is not yet possible.

“The 20 peso per kilo was an aspiration hindi ba? Ang problem now we are in a 15 year high sa world market ‘yung dating $230 dollars per ton, let’s say sa Vietnam today, it’s $700 per ton, so today, that is not possible but with the President’s directive to modernize, irrigate, use the right seeds, mechanize, all of that, maraming gagawin. We are getting ready to do our best to try to make rice affordable na kaya ng bulsa ng mamamayan…it will take a little time but we’ll do it as fast as possible,” he said.

“It’s hard to say (that the P20 per kilo of rice can be achieved during the time of the administration). Ang problema sa mundo it's so complicated, there is climate change, El Niño and now so anything can happen. Hindi natin alam if magkakagiyera ulit sa ibang lugar. Hindi natin alam kung babara ulit ang isang barko sa Suez Canal, so it is possible to lower the price, definitely, but we have to have our cycles, we have to have our buffer stock, and we have to change some laws I believe,” he added.

He refused, however, to divulge yet the laws that needed to be “tweaked” to align the policies, pending consultation with the authors.

Laurel said Marcos' marching orders to him is to work on increasing production in all agriculture sectors with emphasis on rice, which is a staple food for Filipinos.

He said the President ordered modernization on rice farming, boost irrigation system, fertilize and use the correct type of seeds for rice production.

Laurel expressed belief that a big chunk of the agency’s budget should be allotted for the development of the country’s irrigation system, as well as to provide the best fertilizers to the farmers for better production.

The DA secretary said he is also inclined to revive the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics for the better management of importations.

“I have to look at the data of production versus demand. The problem is I have incomplete data... Or ‘yung data hindi ganun ka accurate, I’m not blaming anybody on this but one of the major things that I want to do from the start is to bring back the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics so that we will have accurate data,” said Laurel.

“Hindi ako pro-importation. I’m pro-production. I’m a producer in my past life. I import but I produce a lot more so we believe the Filipinos can produce more, but we will have to import if it is needed but in order to make the right balance, we have to have the right data to manage it properly,” he added.

Laurel said he will also be creating his own intelligence group in a bid to address hoarding and smuggling, which is one of the major concerns of Marcos.

He said he will also push further for aquaculture and mariculture, which will benefit more the small fishermen and coastal folks.

In the coming days, Laurel said he will visit various coastal areas across the country to talk with the fishermen and hear their sentiments and call to the government. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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