Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):
The Philippines is an archipelago of some 7,107 islands located between 4° and 21° N latitude and 116° and 127° E longitude. The country is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Sulu and Celebes seas to the south, and the Bashi Channel to the north.
It is divided into three main geographic areas: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The climate is tropical marine, which is mainly moderated by the surrounding seas, with a November to April northeast monsoon and a May to October southwest monsoon. Climate varies within the country because of the mountainous topography. There are four general climatic types: (1) two pronounced seasons, dry from November to April and wet the rest of the year (Central Luzon, western Visayas), (2) absence of a dry period, but with maximum rains from November to January (eastern Luzon, eastern Visayas, and northeastern Mindanao), (3) dry from November to February and wet the rest of the year (central Visayas, western Bicol, northern Mindanao), and (4) more or less even rainfall distribution throughout the year (central Mindanao).
The population of the Philippines has more than tripled since IRRI developed the first high-yielding variety and released it in the mid-1960s. Back then, the population was only 32.7 million. The country’s population surpassed 93 million in 2010, with about 313 per km². The population grew at 1.9% per year for 2005-10, which was lower than the 2.4% for 1985-95. Urbanization has continued in recent years. The proportion of the urban population increased from 57% in 2000 to around 65% in 2010. Employment in the agricultural sector accounts for 31% of the about 39 million-person labor force.
The Philippines economy is vastly dependent on service and manufacturing. The country’s most vital industries are food processing, textiles and garments, electronics, and automobile parts. It also has substantial reserves of chromite, nickel, copper, coal, and recently discovered oil. The nation’s GDP rose from $2,056 in 1995 to $3,952 in 2010. About 13% of GDP is contributed by the agricultural and fishery sector.
In addition to rice, the Philippines produces other major crops such as sugarcane, coconut, banana, pineapple, mango, coffee, maize, and cassava.
Recent developments in the rice sector
The Philippines is the world’s eighth-largest rice producer. Its arable land totals 5.4 million hectares. Rice area harvested has expanded from nearly 3.8 million hectares in 1995 to about 4.4 million hectares in 2010. However, the country’s rice area harvested is still very small compared with that of the other major rice-producing countries in Asia. More than two-thirds (69%) of its rice area is irrigated. The country’s production increased by a third, from 10.5 million t in 1995 to 15.8 million t in 2010. Seventy-one percent of rice production came from irrigated areas. Although yield improved from 2.8 t/ha in 1995 to 3.6 t/ha in 2010, it was still way below the yield potential of modern varieties.
Rice is a staple food for most Filipinos across the country. The nation’s per capita rice consumption rose from 93.2 kg per year in 1995 to 123.3 kg per year in 2009. Similarly, per capita caloric intake from rice rose from 917 kcal per day in 1995 to 1,213 kcal per day in 2009. Protein requirements from rice, on average, increased from 29.7% in 1995 to 34.8% per person per day in 2009.
The Philippines imports about 10% of its annual consumption requirements. In 2010 and 2011, the country was the biggest rice importer. Its rice imports amounted to 2.38 million t in 2010, mostly coming from Vietnam and Thailand. Despite these imports, rice prices for consumers are some of the highest in developing Asia (as are farm-gate prices for farmers). The high prices are enforced through an import control by the National Food Authority (NFA), a government agency, which also procures paddy from farmers at a government support price. The NFA is also involved in rice distribution by selling rice through the agency’s licensed and accredited retailers/wholesalers in strategic areas at a predetermined price.
Although rice is the main staple in the country, it is a highly political commodity. The Philippine rice sector has always been the center of the government’s agricultural policies. The focal points of the policies revolve around promoting rice self-sufficiency and providing high income to farmers while making rice prices affordable to consumers.
One of the most significant programs of the government for the rice sector is “The Philippine rice master plan 2009-13—enhancing provincial rice self-sufficiency.” This rice master plan envisions a 100% self-sufficient rice economy by 2013 through improved rice productivity, and increased income of rice farmers. This plan pursues location-specific interventions that can help farmers achieve higher yield. It focuses on how interventions can improve productivity toward sufficient yield. These include improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of irrigation systems through rehabilitation; the use of high-quality hybrid and inbred seeds and farmers’ varieties; integrated and sustainable crop management technologies; the provision of soft loans for the establishment of shallow tube wells and surface water pumps; and delivery of extension support services. Rice seed subsidy schemes for farmers were implemented to acquire high-yielding varieties, including hybrid rice varieties.
The government also extends support for farm mechanization through its Rice Mechanization Program. It aims to procure and distribute postharvest (drying and milling) units and on-farm machinery through a financing scheme wherein the government shoulders a big part of the cost.
The major rice-producing parts of the country are Central Luzon (18.7%), western Visayas (11.3%), Cagayan Valley (11%), Ilocos region (9.8%), SOCCSKSARGEN (7.5%), and Bicol region (6.8%). SOCCSKSARGEN is a newly created region in central Mindanao comprising North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces.
Almost 70% of the total rice area is irrigated and the remaining 30% is rainfed and upland. Much of the country’s irrigated rice is grown on the central plain of Luzon, the country’s ricebowl. Rainfed rice is found in the Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon, in Iloilo Province, and on the coastal plains of Visayas and Ilocos in northern Luzon. Upland rice is grown in both permanent and shifting cultivation systems scattered throughout the archipelago on rolling to steep lands.
Because of their higher profitability for farmers, modern high-yielding varieties account for the vast majority of rice production, with less than 3% of production coming from traditional varieties. Labor use on rice is lower than in many developing Asian countries at about 60 person-days/hectare/crop. Some of the reasons for the relatively low labor use are the widespread use of direct seeding and the mechanization of land preparation and threshing in many parts of the country.
Farm-level rice yields in the Philippines have grown in the last decade without a significant change in inputs (fertilizer, herbicides) and crop establishment methods. This progress in rice yields could be related to the use of good-quality seeds: hybrid and certified seeds. With strong partnership and support from IRRI, the country recently released a rice variety for irrigated lowlands, the IRRI-bred Tubigan 18 (NSIC Rc222 or IRRI 154), which yields up to 10 t/ha and has an average of 6 t/ha, 12–13% higher than that of the popular and widely used rice variety PSB Rc82, also bred by IRRI and known as IRRI 123. The high-yielding Tubigan varieties are recommended for irrigated lowland areas but tests done nationwide showed that they can also perform well in rainfed areas, particularly during the wet season.
The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has also recently produced one aromatic rice variety, Mabango (NSIC Rc128), and four glutinous rice varieties: Malagkit 1 (NSIC Rc13), Malagkit 2 (NSIC Rc15), Malagkit 3 (NSIC Rc17), and Malagkit 4 (NSIC Rc19).
Rice production constraints
Climate change, growing population, declining land area, high cost of inputs, and poor drainage and inadequate irrigation facilities are the major constraints to rice production in the Philippines. Some of these constraints are interrelated. Unabated conversion of some agricultural land to residential, commercial, and industrial land reduces the area devoted to rice production, which leads to a shortage in domestic supply.
Climate change and the vulnerability of crop production to drought and heavy rainfall, especially during the typhoon season, severely affect production. The Philippines bears the brunt of typhoons coming in from the Pacific Ocean. Successive heavy rains cause severe drainage problems in paddy fields, thus resulting in a significant reduction in rice yield and quality. There is also concern about the deterioration of irrigation systems at least partially because of a lack of funding for maintenance. Rainfed lowland rice suffers from uncertain timing of the arrival of rains, and drought and submergence—often in the same fields over the course of a single season or in different fields within a farm over the same season. Weeds, drought, diseases (blast), acidic soils, and soil erosion are major problems of upland rice in the Philippines. The high cost of inputs, particularly fertilizer, hinders farmers from applying optimal fertilizer amounts to input-responsive high-yielding varieties.
Rice production opportunities
For the Philippines to become self-sufficient in rice, it has to adopt existing technologies such as improved varieties and know-how to have yield increase by 1–3 t/ha. Better quality seed combined with good management, including new postharvest technologies, is the best way to improve rice yields and the quality of production.
Since current rice yield is way below the yield potential of most modern varieties, improved fertilizer use and crop management, better irrigation facilities, and high-yielding varieties can boost the country’s rice output. The main source of additional rice production is improved yield growth. However, the government must implement a strategy to reduce population growth since the actual volume of rice produced by the country is not enough to match rice demand because of the high increase in population. If population growth will be higher than the growth in yield, the country will continue to import rice from other countries to meet domestic demand for rice in the coming years.
Source: FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.