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April 18, 2008

Govt bans other uses of farmland

The Philippines announced a ban Thursday on converting farmland to other uses in the latest government move to cut imports of rice, which has more than doubled in price since the beginning of the year, AFP reported.

With a global food crisis deepening, the Philippines - the world's top importer of rice - said the ban was aimed at property developers who have been cashing in on a booming property market by snapping up choice farmland.

Agrarian reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman said the indefinite ban had taken effect immediately and was intended to tackle "the unabated conversion of prime agricultural lands for real estate development."

His department said President Gloria Arroyo had ordered a review of the guidelines governing farmland conversion.

The Philippines, made up of more than 7,000 mountainous islands, has struggled to grow enough rice for its rapidly growing population, now estimated at 90 million.

Many Filipino rice farmers work small parcels of land and cannot grow enough rice to feed their family year-round, and the government has said it will import 2.7 million tonnes of rice this year.

It said Wednesday it would invest one billion dollars in an effort to become self-sufficient in rice production by 2010.

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