The P20 per kilo rice “aspiration” is not yet possible today but the Department of Agriculture will follow the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to “modernize, irrigate and mechanize” to make the price of the commodity affordable, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. said.

“The P20 per kilo is an aspiration, right? The problem now . . . we are in a 15 year-high [for rice prices] in the world market. The previous $230 per ton from Vietnam, today it’s $700 per ton. So today that [P20 per kilo rice] is not possible,” Tiu Laurel said at a media briefing.

Nonetheless, Laurel said that with the directive of the President to modernize, irrigate with the right seeds and mechanize, the agency is “getting ready to do our best to try to make price affordable.”

The agriculture chief said the DA hopes to do these steps towards the end of next year. “Of course, building and modernizing is not easy. May procurement process so it might take a little time, but we’re going to do it as fast as possible,” he added.

The DA chief said it’s hard to say that the price of the staple would go down to P20 per kilo because of climate change.

“It’s hard to say ‘no. The problem today is that the world is so complicated. There’s climate change. El Niño is now here and it will continue until next year,” Tiu Laurel said.

While it is possible to lower the price of rice amid the geopolitical conflicts, the DA chief said, “We have to have our silos, we have to have buffer stock. We have to change some laws.”

In addressing the El Niño phenomenon, the Agriculture chief said he has specific plans in mind, but he still has to consult with his team and have a “common direction” to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, when asked whether rice production is the main priority of the agency under his leadership, Tiu Laurel said based on DA’s statement on Monday, that while rice is the country’s staple food, there are other “equally important sectors like livestock, poultry, fisheries and high value crops that require government attention and support.”

The country’s rice imports from January to September declined by almost 12 percent to 2.672 million metric tons (MMT) from 3.035 MMT recorded in the same nine-month period last year, Bureau of Plant Industry data showed.

The United States Department of Agriculture earlier projected that the Philippines could become the world’s top rice importer this year with a total estimated volume of 3.9 MMT.

However, DA Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa told reporters on the sidelines of the media briefing on Monday that the total rice imports of the country for 2023 will “definitely be lower” than the 3.8 MMT recorded last year, as this will be compensated by the country’s local production.BusinessMirror