Poverty in the Philippines has been increasing over the past decade and, despite economic growth of around 5% during 2003–09, 26.5% of the population currently live below the poverty line. Australia’s aid program is working with the Philippine Government to reverse these trends.
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.
The Australia–Philippines Aid Program Strategy 2012–17 aims to assist the poor and vulnerable to take advantage of opportunities that can arise from a more prosperous, stable and resilient Philippines (draft Australia–Philippines Development Cooperation Program 2012–16). ACIAR’s support for this program comes through 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 the largest importer of rice in the world, at around 1.8 million tonnes in 2008. 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.