Rice and the Green Revolution

Rice and the Green Revolution

Rice is the most important food crop, a staple food in most of the country. It is produced extensively in Luzon, the Western Visayas, Southern Mindanao, and Central Mindanao. In 1989 nearly 9.5 billion tons of palay were produced. In 1990 palay accounted for 27 percent of value added in agriculture and 3.5 percent of GNP. Per hectare yields have generally been low in comparison with other Asian countries. Since the mid-1960s, however, yields have increased substantially as a result of the cultivation of high-yielding varieties developed in the mid-1960s at the International Rice Research Institute located in the Philippines. The proportion of "miracle" rice in total output rose from zero in 1965-66 to 81 percent in 1981-82. Average productivity increased to 2.3 tons per hectare (2.8 tons on irrigated farms) by 1983. By the late 1970s, the country had changed from a net importer to a net exporter of rice, albeit on a small scale.

This "green revolution" was accompanied by an expanded use of chemical inputs. Total fertilizer consumption rose from 668 tons in 1976 to 1,222 tons in 1988, an increase of more than 80 percent. To stimulate productivity, the government also undertook a major expansion of the nation's irrigation system. The area under irrigation grew from under 500,000 hectares in the mid-1960s to 1.5 million hectares in 1988, almost half of the potentially irrigable land.

In the 1980s, however, rice production encountered problems. Average annual growth for 1980-85 declined to a mere 0.9 percent, as contrasted with 4.6 percent for the preceding fifteen years. Growth of value added in the rice industry also fell in the 1980s. Tropical storms and droughts, the general economic downturn of the 1980s, and the 1983-85 economic crisis all contributed to this decline. Crop loans dried up, prices of agricultural inputs increased, and palay prices declined. Fertilizer and plant nutrient consumption dropped 15 percent. Farmers were squeezed by rising debts and declining income. Hectarage devoted to rice production, level during the latter half of the 1970s, fell an average of 2.4 percent per annum during the first half of the 1980s, with the decline primarily in marginal, nonirrigated farms. As a result, in 1985, the last full year of the Marcos regime, the country imported 538,000 tons of rice. The situation improved somewhat in the late 1980s, and smaller amounts of rice were imported. However, in 1990 the country experienced a severe drought. Output fell by 1.5 percent, forcing the importation of an estimated 400,000 tons of rice.


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