Corn production in the Philippines is forecast to increase by as much as 7 percent to 7.5 million tonnes in 2009, up from the estimated output of 7 million tonnes for this year.
Expansion of corn acreage would lead to the sector's projected growth next year, said Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dennis Araullo.
Araullo said new areas are developed nationwide, and the government is planning to add about 100,000-200,000 hectares to corn farm clusters.
This new forecast, however, is a drop of 3.8 percent from the previous projection that next year's corn production would reach 7.8 million tonnes. The previous forecast was based on expectations of exports to South Korea and Taiwan.
Unfortunately, the export plans were shelved as corn farmers reduced their use of fertilisers that were increasingly expensive. This is expected to lead to a decline in the corn yield per hectare.
The government's decision to temporarily suspend tariffs on feed wheat imports have also discouraged farmers to plant corn.
Araullo said the revised production target also took into account the possible effects of climate change and global warming on the farm sector.
''There have been changes in the planting season. For example, corn farmers should have harvested their crop in November and December, but with the continuous rains, corn farmers may have to do their harvesting in January and February,'' Araullo said.
To ensure the sector's growth next year, Araullo said the GMA corn programme is requesting for a PHP817 million (US$17.3 million) budget in 2009, up from this year's budget of PHP658 million (US$13.9 million).
If the budget is approved, as much as 52 percent of it would be allocated to post-harvest facilities to help improve corn quality, and next year's focus would be more on proper corn-on-cobs drying, said Araullo.
The rest of the budget would be devoted to other activities such as research and development, and the programme would also stop distributing seed subsidies to corn farmers in 2009, according to Araullo.