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NEWS UPDATES 26 June 2009

Philippine rice output gets boost from World Bank loan

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The World Bank has said it had approved a 70.36 million-dollar farming loan for the Philippines aimed at boosting output in the world's largest rice importer, AFP reported.

The 15-year "adaptable programme loan" will go towards expanding irrigation in the country, thus increasing yield, the Bank's country office said in a statement.

The money is the first of three tranches totalling $290.36 million to help pay for the $413.59 million project. The rest will be paid by the government. The loan requires Manila to put up an initial counterpart fund of $43.23 million to help the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) hand over management of some water canals to farmers. The terms of the loan were not disclosed.

The project "will contribute significantly to the government's priority objective of increasing agricultural productivity and enhancing food security," Health Secretary Arthur Yap said in the statement.

Manila was forced to import 2.3 million tonnes of rice last year, rationing state-subsidised stocks to the poorest neighbourhoods, even as prices spiked to near 30-year highs, to feed its rapidly growing population of 90 million people.

The country has largely failed to produce enough of the cereal and has long been one of the world's largest buyers. President Gloria Arroyo has since pledged more investment in the farm sector to ensure food security, particularly on irrigation for rice, a water-intensive crop.

Most Filipino rice farmers tend small plots and rely on rainfall, leaving the land idle in the dry season and curtailing their productivity, according to agricultural experts in Manila.


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