Agri chief bares Negros Oriental’s rice situation

THE Agriculture department reported recently that of the 25 towns and cities in Negros Oriental, only two cities and two towns are considered rice sufficient or can support its own food requirements.

The rest of Negros Oriental are considered rice deficient or are highly dependent on importation, said Provincial Agriculturist Gregorio P. Paltinca.

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Paltinca identified the two cities as Canlaon, which is 369.42 percent rice sufficient and Bayawan in the south, which is 152.08 percent.

The towns of Zamboanguita and Ayungon are rice sufficient by 143.33 percent and 126.28 percent, respectively.

Paltinca also emphasized that for the province to be rice sufficient, government must irrigate and plant some 20,000 hectares with rice, but at present only 15,059 hectares of land are actually planted with rice.

Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Foundation Inc. Provincial Coordinator Merlisa Garcia asserts that the province will never be rice sufficient for the following reasons: only 14,000 hectares of rice land are irrigated; many of the watersheds are drying up; land conversion from agricultural to commercial; diversion of rice planters to growing kangkong; and high cost of farm inputs, which prevents farmers to maximize the full potential of their land in rice production.

Both Paltinca and Garcia underscored the need to rehabilitate and build more irrigation facilities for expansion.

The National Irrigation Administration submitted on Wednesday 39 irrigation projects for repair and improvement amounting to P72 million covering 1,085 hectares, which is expected to boost food security and benefit some 2,490 farmers.

In a meeting recently with members of the League of Municipalities, Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Technical Director Angel Enriquez said major interventions worth P18 million will be available for the province to increase rice sufficiency level from 65 percent this year to 79 percent in 2010.

Among the interventions to be funded by DA are the provision of flatbed dryers, post harvest facilities, certified seeds, rehabilitation of irrigation sites, subsidy in planting hybrid rice and the location of areas where rice growing is best suited. (SunStarDumaguete)

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