Despite economic growth of 6–7% in both 2012 and 2013 (the highest rate in South-East Asia), entrenched poverty continues to affect 39 million Filipinos (44% of the population). This figure has remained largely unchanged since 2006, with the benefits of growth experienced mostly by those who are already well-off. Australia’s aid program is working with the Philippine Government to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance stability.
There is relatively little new land in the Philippines suitable for expanding production areas, and productivity growth in existing areas in recent years has been low. In addition, the population continues to grow at >2% per year; the expected population will rise to 101 million over the next 7 years. While rice production remains a dominant national focus, there is increasing pressure to diversify and produce a range of other food, livestock and fisheries products, as well as other income-producing crops, on increasingly marginal land in the uplands.
ACIAR’s support focuses on increasing productivity, marketability and international competitiveness for agricultural products, and a new priority aimed at reducing the adverse effects of climate change on the rural poor. Underpinning these two priorities is the need to develop more-effective extension processes and greater responsiveness to market opportunities.
ACIAR will continue to support research for development to improve market competitiveness of products from aquaculture, horticulture and livestock enterprises. The emphasis on higher value products and market competitiveness aims to improve food security by supporting research that would provide smallholder farmers and traders with increased cash income, enabling the purchase of staple foods.
The Philippines is currently one of the largest importers of rice in the world, at around 2 million tonnes in 2014. Part of ACIAR’s contribution to research in the Philippines involves providing core funding to IRRI (which is headquartered in Los Baños in the Philippines) and supporting additional IRRI initiatives aimed at maintaining rice productivity.