IN an effort to stop rice importation and stabilize the country’s food supply in the face of lower global rice trade volumes, the government has launched the “Masaganang Ani 200” program, which aims to boost Philippine farms’ rice yield to 200 cavans per hectare.
At a hybrid rice festival in Nueva Ecija, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol sad that the Masaganang Ani 200 program should enable the Philippines to stop rice importation, which is an economically and politically destabilizing food strategy.
“The truth is we can’t just depend on other countries. We don’t know when the next typhoon will come or when the next El Niño will hit us. The reality is we’re subject to climate change. So when they say ‘Let’s just import,’ I tell them, ‘Don’t you know the volume of rice traded in the market is just at 36 million tons and 34 million of that is committed already?’” Piñol said.
According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in 2014 the volume of traded rice reached 42 million MT, indicating a serious decline in the past three years in the amount of rice available for import purchases.
“Masaganang Ani 200 is our best option. Next year, we’ll have one million hectares for hybrid rice to achieve sufficiency. We only have hybrid on less than 10 percent of our four million hectares (of) rice land. We’ll present this program to the Cabinet on April 19,” said Piñol.
Without the program, the agriculture chief explained, the country runs the risk of a food shortage when “the name of the game will be the highest bidder (when rice volume slims) like in 2008 when price shot up to $1,200 per ton,” he said.
“What if El Niño hits Vietnam, India, China? We won’t be able to compete with China. So we must improve farmers’ productivity. We don’t need to expand our area. We just need to improve technology. If we raise productivity by two tons per hectare, that will be two million tons from one million hectares, and we won’t need to import,” said Piñol.
Piñol said hybrid rice can double farmers’ harvest from the present national average yield of 4.15 MT per hectare. This average already improved from 3.9 MT per hectare due to productivity growth from use of hybrid rice, he said.
High hybrid yields reported
At the harvest festival in Talavera, Nueva Ecija before the Holy Week holiday, hybrid rice grower Edgardo Marcelo reported a yield from the just completed dry season harvest of 266 cavans at 59.3 kilos per cavan from his 1.3-hectare land, using SL Agritech’s SL-8H hybrid variety.
This translated to 242 cavans on a per hectare 50-kilo basis, and generated P216,000 in net income for a four-month cropping period with production costs of about P50,000 at a palay selling price of P20 per kilo.
In 2016, Marcelo’s harvest was even higher at 308 cavans from his 1.3 hectares.
Another local farmer, Ricardo P. Buenaventura, claimed during the same festival to have harvested at least 200 cavans since he started growing hybrid rice SL-8H.
Buenaventura attributed his cooperative’s growth to the cultivation of the hybrid rice, which he convinced his neighbors to plant in order to recover from a bank debt in mid-1990s.
Buenaventura is chairman of the Nagkakaisang Magsasaka Agricultural Primary Multi Purpose Cooperative (NMAP-MPC), which was founded by 16 farmers in 1989.
NMAP-MPC’s rice processing complex in Brgy. Tabacao, Talavera was the site of the harvest festival on April 5.
NMAP-MPC is now a fully integrated cooperative with nearly P600 million in assets. It engages not only in growing rice, but in drying, milling, storage-warehousing, and marketing.
DA to facilitate services
Piñol told the harvest festival audience that the DA would organize service providers that will allow farmers the use of equipment such as tractors, transplanters, and combine harvesters.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who delivered the keynote address at the festival, reiterated his promise to give farmers free irrigation. Piñol, meanwhile, committed the DA to the construction of shallow tube wells.
The agriculture secretary also said the agency would soon develop a lending facility to provide farmers P50,000 each in collateral-free credit that could be obtained in three days.