Land conversion blamed for rice crisis

"Land conversion has wiped out the country's roughly two million hectares of fully irrigated rice production areas because these are being converted into areas for housing and factories, for commercial and industrial uses and industrial crops,” he added.

The councilor said that although the Davao region still had 24,000 hectares of rice fields left, 700 hectares were converted last year into banana plantation in Compostela Valley.

He said the "looming crisis is a result of a policy failure."

He traced the "looming crisis" to the "unabated expansion of banana plantations, notably in Mindanao, at the expense of thousands of hectares of rice fields and the focus of the Department of Agriculture's (DA) on biofuels."

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) claimed it has been discouraging farmers from converting their rice fields into banana plantation. But they would prefer to produce more profitable crops such as banana, Avila said.

Councilor Pilar Braga for her part said the "total hectarage dedicated to rice farming had declined" due to conversion into residential, industrial, and recreational purposes.

Braga lamented that although the Philippines’ rice productivity is twice that of Thailand, the world's top rice exporter, “we have become a major importer.”

She noted that the National Food Authority in the region has repeatedly denied there is a rice shortage.

She, however, said the people should be informed if such a shortage existed. (MindaNews)