A total amount of P500 million will be allotted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to encourage more farmers to plant hybrid rice varieties as part of attaining national rice sufficiency by the end of the year.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said that from the P500 million budget, P200 million will be spent this year while the remaining P300 million will be spent in 2014.
The budget is allotted to increase hybrid rice utilization and hectarage by eight to 10 percent in 2014 from 3.5 percent last year.
Alcala said that the DA will promote both private and public hybrids, particularly those developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) as well as establish more technology-demonstrations farms in top rice-producing provinces.
In addition, 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.
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..
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.
He said the choice of what rice varieties to plant, either hybrids or inbreds, still depends 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, Filipino rice farmers could compete with their counterparts in Southeast Asia, like Thailand and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, PhilRice director Eufemio Rasco, Jr. said the goal is attainable, as PhiRice-developed ‘mestizo’ hybrids could produce up to12 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, according to Assistant Secretary Dante Delima.
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 inbreed 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.