The Philippines is currently the largest importer of rice in the world, importing around 1.8 million tons of rice in 2008 (World Rice Statistics). Three main factors explain why the Philippines imports rice:
Land area: The Philippines has around 300,000 square kilometers, of which around 43,000 square kilometers of harvested area are used for rice production. As most of the country is very mountainous and consists of many small islands, suitable land is limited to expand rice production into without affecting wetlands, forests, or areas producing other crops. Urban areas also continue to expand rapidly.
Population growth: The population of the Philippines is estimated at 97 million. Its annual growth rate of around 2% – among the world’s highest – means that just to keep pace with growing demand the country would have to increase rice production and yield at rates rarely seen in history.
Infrastructure: Irrigation infrastructure is not used and maintained as efficiently as it could be, thus reducing productivity potential. Transport infrastructure, particularly good-quality roads, is lacking in the Philippines, which affects the transport of rice and hinders the rice trade.
IRRI is doing a whole host of research that is helping the Philippines increase its rice production. Philippine farmers eagerly adopt new technologies and varieties that have resulted in a steady increase in rice yields over the last 50 years since IRRI was established.
Research that IRRI is involved in that is helping Filipino farmers increase their rice yields includes:
- Developing new high-yielding rice varieties with built-in resistance to pests, diseases, and other stresses such as heat and drought. The Philippines has 107 rice varieties attributed to IRRI. In 2009, three new varieties of IRRI-bred rice arrived in the Philippines – one variety is flood-tolerant, one is drought-tolerant, and one is salt-tolerant.
- Developing rice crop management strategies that improve nutrient-use efficiency to get the most value out of inputs and reduce wastage. In 2012, IRRI launched its latet smartphone technology to help farmers determine how to fertilize their rice crops.
- Developing climate change adaptation strategies and technologies.
- Training the next generation of rice scientists and building the capacity of rice practitioners to ensure the sustainable development of the rice industry. A total of 532 IRRI scholars came from the Philippines from 1966 to 2009.
IRRI also works with its partners in the Philippine government to deliver rice research to farmers to improve their rice yields and the environmental health of their rice farms. These partnerships greatly increase IRRI’s capacity to make a difference. We rely on national and local research and extension providers, such as PhilRice, the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture and others within the public and private sector, to help develop and facilitate the adoption of technologies that suit farmers.
IRRI also discusses with the Philippine government ways to increase rice production, improve the accessibility of affordable rice to poor rice consumers, and reduce the national trade deficit in rice. IRRI supports the Philippines in its efforts to reach rice self sufficiency asoutlined in its Food Staples Self Sufficiency Roadmap.
Nutrient Manager Mobile is helping Filipino farmers apply nutrients more wisely to their rice crops to get higher yields.