DA earmarks P500M for hybrid rice utilization, promotion

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has earmarked P500 million for the promotion and utilization of hybrid rice seeds that will boost the government's staple sufficiency program.

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, during the 1st National Hybrid Rice Congress held here recently, said some P200 million will be spent this year and another P300 in 2014 to increase hybrid rice utilization and hectarage by eight to 10 percent in 2014 from 3.5 percent last year.

Alcala said the DA under its national rice program will continuously promote both private and public hybrids, particularly those developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) through the establishment of more technology-demonstrations farms in top rice-producing provinces by the DA regional field units.

This in partnership with private hybrid rice seed producers, farmers’ groups and irrigators’ associations (IAs), and local government units (LGUs).

In addition, he said farmers wanting to plant hybrids can avail of production loans of up to P50,000 per hectare and P41,000 per hectare, if they wish to plant inbreds, under the expanded P400-million ‘Sikat-Saka’ credit program implemented jointly by the DA and Land Bank of the Philippines.

He said the promotion of hybrid rice is an integral part of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the Aquino government’s banner food security program that aims to attain sufficiency in rice and major staples like white corn, root crops and plantains.

"We are on track to achieving sufficiency in rice by end of 2013," the DA chief said. Under the FSSP, the DA aims to produce a record harvest of 20 million tons (MT), making the country 100-percent sufficient, which is 11 percent or two million tons more than last year’s output of 18 million MT.

"We can take pride in the success of FSSP, but we know we need to exert more effort and cooperation, particularly among farmers’ groups, LGUs and the private sector," he said.

He said the choice of what rice varieties to plant, either hybrids or inbreds, still depend on the farmers themselves, as they will have to consider the suitability of their farm, availability of irrigation, amount of farm inputs and capital, and their level of technology.

To hasten the promotion of hybrids, he urged the private seed companies to make their seeds available at the right time when farmers need them.

He also challenged them and the DA-PhilRice to help farmers attain the "10-5" goal, that is, an average harvest of 10 tons of palay per hectare and an average production cost of P5 per kilo.

This way, he said, Filipino rice farmers could compete with their counterparts in Southeast Asia, like Thailand and Vietnam.

PhilRice director Eufemio Rasco, Jr., for his part, said the goal is attainable as PhiRice-developed "mestizo" hybrids could produce up to 12 tons per hectare, under favorable conditions and proper farm management.

This year, the DA aims to expand the area planted to hybrids by 72 percent to 284,400 hectares, versus last year’s 164,787 hectares, said Assistant Secretary Dante Delima, during his presentation on the first day of the hybrid rice congress.

Last year’s hybrid rice hectarage represented 3.5 percent of the country’s total harvested area of 4,689,960 hectares, while the majority were planted to inbreds and home-saved seeds.

In 2014, the hybrid rice hectarage will be further expanded to 388,000 hectares, said Delima, who also serves as the DA national rice program coordinator.

Delima urged private seed producers to actively participate in the "Sikat-Saka" credit program, and encourage qualified farmers, particularly those belonging to irrigators’ associations in top 20 rice producing provinces, to plant hybrids.

Sikat-Saka was piloted last year in four major rice provinces of Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Iloilo and North Cotabato. It will be expanded this year to include 16 other top rice producers, said Delima.

These include Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Zamboanga del Sur.