Why Nueva Ecija is the Rice Granary of the Philippines

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Photo by Alex Moises on Flickr

Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

When we talk about Central Luzon, the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan frequently come into mind. These provinces often outperform the rest of the area, particularly the economy of Nueva Ecija. However, despite its lack of recognition, Nueva Ecija continues to significantly impact the economy of the region due to its crops production.

With a total land area of 5,751 square kilometers, the province has a total population of 2.3 million, according to the 2020 data from Philippine Statistics Authority.

How Nueva Ecija Came to Be

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Photo by Manny Francisco on Flickr

Nueva Ecija started as a military comandancia by Governor General Clavera in 1777, with Baler as its capital (now part of Aurora). The Spanish named it after Seville’s ancient town, Écija.

It used to be part of Pampanga. Its initial land area increased to practically the whole island of Luzon. From 1777 and 1917, Spanish authorities divided Nueva Ecija’s area to make room for the establishment of new provinces. The Province of Tayabas (now Aurora and Quezon), which includes the Polillo Islands, the provinces of Palanan (now Isabela), Cagayan, the province of Nueva Vizcaya, the territory that became part of the Province of Quirino in 1867, the province of Manila north of the province of Tondo in 1867, and the District of Morong (now Rizal) were among those formed from Nueva Ecija.

The Spanish government recognized Nueva Ecija as one of the two Spanish nations in the Pacific, along with Las Islas Filipinas. However, the King of Spain refused to recognize Nueva Ecija as a distinct kingdom from the Philippines in the 1840s due to poverty.

Important part of the history

Nueva Ecija was one of the first provinces to rise against Spanish authority in 1896 and proclaim independence in 1898. Instead of the poor, it was the elite, ruling class who spearheaded the 1896 revolt against Spain in the area. When armed conflict erupted in Nueva Ecija, municipal leaders and notable residents refused to cooperate with Spanish authorities. In the province, those recognized Filipino heroes were the aristocrats and colonial officials who showed their patriotism and affection for fellow Filipinos.

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Now that you know the province’s history, let get to know Nueva Ecija’s significant contribution to the country’s economy.

What is the main product of Nueva Ecija? Let’s explore this question in the next section.

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The Emergence of Nueva Ecija as the Rice Granary of the Philippines

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Photo by Pinoy Photographer on Flickr

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the realization of Nueva Ecija’s potential as a rice seedbed resulted in the vast conversion of public property and the formation of agricultural estates in the province. The establishment of these estates heralded the advent of large-scale commercial agriculture centered on wet rice production. By the 1920s, Nueva Ecija had earned the nickname “The Rice Granary of the Philippines” or “The Rice Bowl of the Philippines,” which has remained the province’s moniker ever since.

End of the 1800s

Nueva Ecija was not always the Rice Granary of the Philippines. While rice farming was already a significant industry in the latter part of the 1800s, it would soon become the province’s primary industry.

Between 1870 and 1887, the province produced between 700,000 and 1,500,000 cavans per year and exported around 500,000 cavans to Manila in the 1880s. By that time, it had surpassed Pampanga’s exports, which had historically been the primary source of grain. Gapan and Aliaga produced the most rice, while Cabanatuan, Gapan, and San Isidro functioned as shipping hubs.

By the conclusion of the first decade, rice cultivation had established itself as the province’s primary industry, with the yield gradually increasing from 1,600,000 cavans in 1909 to 1,900,000 cavans in 1910 and 2,153,718 cavans in 1911. (Education Bureau) Already in 1911, the province was the third greatest rice producer in the Islands.

By 1920, Nueva Ecija had become the country’s leading rice-producing province, cementing its title as The Rice Granary of the Philippines. Nueva Ecija, in comparison to Pangasinan, had less farmed lands but greater productivity, average production per hectare, and total value that year.

Early Commonwealth Period

Between 1933 and 1937, annual rice output in the provinces varied between 42,219,600 and 55,015,730 cavans. Nueva Ecija generated between 16 and 20% of all cavans made annually.

Nueva Ecija produced 4,128,155 cavans of rice for the market in 1939 but consumed only 1,004,848 cavans. Thus, the province produced more than three times the amount of rice eaten. By the late 1930s, no other province in the Philippines had amassed as much surplus as Nueva Ecija.

Present Times: The Volume of Palay Production in Central Luzon Region

According to the latest data from Philippine Statistics Authority, Central Luzon was able to produce a total of 1,516,967 metric tons of palay in the fourth quarter of 2020. It fell by 0.5 percent from the same quarter last year. Despite the decline, Central Luzon surpassed all other areas in palay output in the fourth quarter of 2020, accounting for 20.5 percent of the country’s total production.

The declines in palay output in Aurora (33.2 percent), Bataan (1.7 percent), Bulacan (6.6 percent), and Zambales (8.3 percent) contributed to the region’s overall palay production falling by 0.5 percent, or 8,254 metric tons, in the fourth quarter of 2020. On the other hand, Nueva Ecija (1.7 percent ), Pampanga (0.9 percent ), and Tarlac all reported greater palay output (8.3 percent ).

Research and Development

Aside from farming, the people of Nueva Ecija also dedicate themselves to research for the development of agriculture not only in the province but also in the country. Yes, the province is not only the Rice Granary of the Philippines but also the country’s agriculture research and development center.

In Nueva Ecija, you can find the city of Muñoz, officially the Science City of Muñoz. The Science City is home to agricultural research and technology institutes dedicated to the generation of expertise and technological advances for rural development, productivity, and food security.

In Science City, you can find the Philippine Rice Research Institute which holdstop experiments on farming. The Central Luzon State University (CLSU) teaches students the value of agriculture by offering courses on agricultural engineering, biology, fisheries, teacher education, and veterinary medicine. It is one of the foremost research-oriented universities in the country that’s internationally recognized. It also houses the Agricultural Museum that promotes Philippine agriculture. You may also find here the Philippine Carabao Center. This institution is solely dedicated to breeding and crossing carabao based on high-yield Murrah buffalo in the Philippines for milk, meat, hide, and draft.

What Are the Main Crops in Nueva Ecija?

Aside from being the Rice Granary of the Philippines, Nueva Ecija is also one of the top producers of other high-value crops in the country. Here are the main crops in Nueva Ecija:

1. Rice

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Photo by Manny Francisco on Flickr

As the Rice Granary of the Philippines, the economy of Nueva Ecija contributed to half (51.4%) of the region’s total palay production in the last quarter of 2020, whereas Tarlac and Bulacan posted 18.6 percent share and 10.7 percent share, respectively. The remaining 19.3 percent can be attributed to the provinces of Pampanga, Zambales, Bataan, and Aurora.

2. Corn

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The latest data shows that Nueva Ecija contributed more than half of the increase in the total corn production in the region in the first quarter of 2021 compared to that of the same quarter in 2020. And Central Luzon recorded an increase of 7,255 metric tons in its total corn production.

3. Onion

Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, is recognized as the “onion capital” of the Philippines. Meanwhile, San Jose, Nueva Ecija is also recognized as a leading producer of onions in the country.

In 2019, Nueva Ecija accounted for 56.0 percent of the country’s land area dedicated to onion farming. Additionally, it contributed to Nueva Ecija 61.1 percent of the 222,082 metric tons produced by the country in general.

4. Garlic

When it comes to garlic production, Nueva Ecija covered 9.2 percent of the country’s total land area for garlic farming in 2019. In the same year, it contributed to 3.83 percent of the country’s total garlic production at 7,256 metric tons.

5. Calamansi (Philippine Lime)

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The province of Nueva Ecija also produced the most calamansi in Central Luzon. In 2014, around 18 municipalities were practicing calamansi cultivation. San Leonardo, Cabanatuan City, Palayan City, Cabiao, and Pearanda were among the province’s top growers. There were 756, 136 trees planted in all.  684, 615 have already produced fruit in the province. In the province, 1,481 farmers cultivate the fruit. A total of 1,200 hectares of land are devoted to calamansi growing and production. 

6. Mango

In 2018, Ilocos Region topped the mango-producing regions, contributing 55.6 percent to the national total production. Central Luzon ranked second with 18.2 percent with Nueva Ecija as one of its top-producing provinces.

7. Banana

Nueva Ecija also produces bananas, particularly in San Jose City.

8. Coconut

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Another major crop in the province is coconut. In 2019, Nueva Ecija was one of the provinces with the highest coconut yield at 79.19 kgs. for every bearing tree.

9. Vegetables

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The province’s land also made it possible to produce a variety of vegetables. That is why it is also a driver of the economy of Nueva Ecija. Some of its primary vegetables include tomatoes, which covered 9.6 percent of the country’s total tomato farming land area in 2019. Additionally, the province’s eggplant farms covered 7.8% of the country’s total land area for eggplant farming in the same year.

San Jose: Nueva Ecija’s Fast-Growing City

A 3rd class component city in the province of Nueva Ecija, the city of San Jose is officially known as the City of San Jose. In fact, approximately 150,917 people live there, according to the 2020 census. And the city is one of the contributors to the economy of Nueva Ecija.

Businesses in San Jose

San Jose City in Nueva Ecija is one of the suburban cities with rising investment possibilities. San Jose, being one of the cities that comprise Nueva Ecija, called the “Rice Bowl of the Philippines,” is well-known for its agricultural sector and agricultural-related commercial operations to both domestic and foreign investors. This, along with certain large-scale infrastructure projects, has transformed San Jose City into a highly attractive investment destination.

Manufacturing Companies in San Jose

Indeed, San Jose, being a gateway to Cagayan Valley and Pangasinan Province, has the potential to develop into an agro-industrial hub. Certainly, such could be a potential contributor to the economy of Nueva Ecija. Some of the city’s local manufacturing companies include EA Estrella Grains Corporation, F.V. Dysico Ricemill & Trading, Joseph Ricemill Corp., BBGM Ricemill And Enterprises Corporation, and Agromaktechnologies Inc.

Other Businesses

Other businesses also thrive in the city. Shopping malls like Wallmart San Jose, SM San Jose, Magic Mall, and Vista Mall provide residents with a great variety of stores and shopping opportunities.

The city also exhibits the potential for other businesses such as fertilizer, furniture, jewellery, and other consumer items. Investors are also urged to develop a modern cold storage facility or a food terminal and processing plant.

Streamtech, Ready to Power the Rice Granary of the Philippines!

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