GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 April) – Around P54.2 billion is needed to develop new irrigation systems in Mindanao that could serve an additional 100,686 hectares of rice farms, the National Irrigation Administration said.
NIA administrator Antonio Nangel said in a statement that of Mindanao’s 959,020 hectares of irrigable land, only 368,382 hectares are served by existing irrigation systems.
“Mindanao still has more than 600,000 hectares of idle irrigable land, which is more than enough to achieve the country’s [rice] food self-sufficiency if developed,” he was quoted as saying during last week’s Mindanao Irrigation Development multi-stakeholder meeting here.
Development and maintenance of irrigation systems are among the strategies identified under the Philippine Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap (FSSR) 2011-2016 launched recently by the Department of Agriculture.
Under this program, Mindanao is expected to deliver 5.505-million tons of harvested rice in 2016.
To achieve the target, NIA needs to develop 100,686 hectares of additional irrigated land in Mindanao which requires P54.195 billion to support FSSR.
In its proposed 2012 budget, Nangel said the NIA, an attached agency of the Agriculture department, has allotted 40% for the development of irrigation systems in Mindanao.
NIA has a budget of P12.8 billion for this year, which is reportedly 37% of the Agriculture department’s total budget.
Mindanao accounts for 959,020 hectares or 31% of the country’s 3.126 million hectares of irrigable land. Luzon has the biggest irrigable land in the country with a share of 61% or about 1.8 million hectares.
However, only 358,382 hectares or 37% of Mindanao’s 959,020 hectares have been developed as of last year, NIA data said.
Compared to Luzon, Mindanao’s typhoon-free climate bodes well for rice production.
“If we concentrate in Mindanao, it can really help in the food security program of the government”, Nangel said.
Rice remains Mindanao’s top import commodity and has grown considerably in the last five years, the Mindanao Development Authority reported.
In 2010 alone, rice accounted for a total of P346.46 million in imports, up by close to 70% compared to 2009, it added.
With the rice demand getting higher aside from climate change causing low production turnout worldwide, the government has resorted to averting future food shortages by producing more agricultural outputs especially rice, said MinDA chairperson Luwalhati Antonino.
“Because of President Aquino’s directives to prioritize Mindanao, more line agencies are now deliberately conscious of what Mindanao has to offer such as in the case of NIA who [sic] recognizes the island’s strong potentials in addressing food security,” she said.
She added that MinDA would regularize multi-stakeholder convergence meetings with key partners from government and private sectors to ensure that Mindanao contributes to attaining rice self-sufficiency throughout the country.
Antonino said MinDA will help usher in programs and projects that would increase rural productivity and ensure food security as part of President Benigno Aquino III’s “social contract” with the Filipino people.
Irrigation development is among the key interventions needed to support the island’s development requirements identified in the Mindanao 2020 Peace and Development Framework. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)