PILI, Camarines Sur, May 1 (PNA) -- Posting a tremendous growth in rice production last year, Naga, Bicol’s lone independent city, was recently crowned by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as one of the country’s top rice achievers among local government units (LGUs).
Surrounded by rich agricultural, forest and fishing areas, the city, more recognized as the region’s religious capital being home to Bicolandia’s patroness, the lady of Peñafrancia, bested several cities and municipalities nationwide to get into the top rank in the Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards (APRAA) for 2015.
Elena de los Santos, DA’s regional office officer-in-charge based here, on Friday said that in securing the award, Naga City posted a rice production growth of 50.12 percent or from 6,298.94 metric tons (MT) in 2014 to 9,456.06 MT in 2015 with a yield growth of 28 percent from 4.05 MT to 5.20 MT per hectare.
The city was also able to increase last year its rice area by 16.84 percent from 1,555.7 hectares to 1,817.65 hectares as well as recorded over 64-percent increase in high-quality seeds utilization—which are among the bases of the selection of winners in the LGUs category of the yearly award, according to De los Santos.
In terms of budget allocation, she said, the Naga City government allocated to its rice program last year 25.39 percent of its Internal Revenue Allotment ( IRA) which was equivalent to almost PHP3 million and implemented 13 related projects in support to rice and agriculture programs.
With this, Naga City became the second Bicol city next to Legazpi and the fourth LGU of the region to win the prestigious agricultural achievement award in three years, with the latter. along with the municipalities of Polangui in Albay and Castilla of Sorsogon, getting the awards in 2014.
“We are proud of these LGUs and people in the local rice production sector as they are behind the region’s rice self-sufficiency achievements which started recording over 100 percent in 2013 and sustained as of last year,” De los Santos said.
Each year’s production rate since then had been equivalent to some 1.5 million MT for an average surplus of nearly 17 percent based on the annual regional rice consumption of around 824,000 MT.
It also improved Bicol’s ranking from sixth in 2013 to fifth among the country’s 16 rice-producing regions, she said.
De los Santos explained that APRAA awardees are being selected based on their incremental increase in rice harvest and average yield per hectare over the previous year’s levels; amount of budget allocated and disbursed to rice projects and initiatives; number of farmers benefited; degree of farmers’ technology adoption; and utilization of quality seeds.
For the win, she said, the Naga City government, during the awarding ceremonies at the Resort World Hotel in Pasay City last April 20, received a check worth PHP1 million representing the cash award and a trophy from DA Secretary Proceso Alcala.
Also awarded were last year’s top five rice-producing provinces--Ilocos Norte, Nueva Viscaya, Occidental Mindoro, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental which received Php4 million in cash prize and a trophy each.
De los Santos, who escorted national awardees from Bicol to the awarding ceremonies, said five exceptional irrigators' associations were also recognized and given Php1 million worth of project grant each, while each of the three outstanding Small Water Impounding Systems Associations (SWISAs) which won the national awards got PHP500,000, also in project grants.
Likewise, 398 selected Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs) and Local Farmer Technicians (LFTs) from all over the country were recognized for their hard work and efforts in assisting farmers and facilitating transfer of improved technologies during the last year’s period of search for awardees.
De los Santos said that among them were 27 AEWs and five LFTs from Bicol who took home cash incentives worth PHP20,000 each.
The APRAAs, now on its fifth year, are conferred to LGUs and agriculture extension workers who significantly contributed in the effective and successful implementation of the Agri-Pinoy Rice Program which is one of the banner undertakings of the DA mainly concerned in rice farming and uplifting the lives of Filipino farmers.
The Agri-Pinoy Rice Program, guided by the principles of the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) framework, plays a key role in the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.
With the vision of a food-secure society where farmers enjoy decent and rising standards of living, the FSSP 2011-2016 aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples.
Self-sufficiency means satisfying domestic requirements for food, seeds, processing, and feeds through domestic production.
In the awarding ceremonies, Alcala, De los Santos said, acknowledged the efforts of the hardworking farmers and farm workers whom he considers “mga bayani sa lahat ng panahon (heroes of all times).”
The DA national chief also thanked the contribution of the LGU’s to the attainment of the 97 percent rice self-sufficiency level of the country despite the onslaught of natural calamities, she said.
“Our country’s rice production for the past five years under the Aquino administration has consistently surpassed 18 million metric tons, which earned our country the recognition by the Unites States Department of Agriculture Grains Authority of having posted the highest increment of harvest and fastest gains of 2.8 percent in rice production among rice-producing countries in the world for the past five years,” De los Santos quoted Alcala as saying during the same occasion.
Alcala, according to her, underscored that the government has slowly changed the usual image of Filipino farmers: wallowing in drudgery of pulling his stubborn carabao in the field as this time, the image of Filipino farmers is one that uses modern technology and mechanization.(PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN