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Philippines to map rice producing areas for land use bill

Philippines: The Department of Agriculture is in the process of mapping strategic rice production areas nationwide to give teeth to a measure that seeks to end the conversion of irrigated agricultural lands into subdivisions.

A survey conducted in 2008 found that on average, 9,000 hectares of farmlands devoted to rice are being converted to other uses or planted to other crops every year.

Of these 9,000 hectares, about a third are irrigated, according to a survey spanning the years 2002 to 2007. The survey also showed that as much as 36,000 metric tons (MT) were lost in 2002. By 2007, the potential palay production that was lost due to the conversion of rice lands was estimated at around 200,000 MT.

But the continuous conversion of productive farmlands into other uses has not yet affected the government”s goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency in 2013, said Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala.

“The expansion of irrigated farmlands planted to rice is outpacing the conversion of some farmlands into other uses,” he said.

However, Philippine Rice Research Institute executive director Eufemio T. Rasco Jr. said the rate of land conversion may have been maintained in recent years.

“I wouldn”t be surprised if around 9,000 hectares of irrigated farmlands are still being converted into other uses. For one, urbanization is moving at a fast rate and most of irrigated farmlands are near urban areas,” he said.

Philrice and another DA agency, the Bureau of Agricultural Research, conducted the survey on the rate of land conversion in the country.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dante Delima said the department is planning to finish the mapping before the end of 2013, with solons wanting a database of the rice production areas to incorporate into a land use law.

“This is one of the projects which we will undertake with the International Rice Research Institute,” said Delima.

Source: GMA News