Rice farmers in central Luzon, using a hybrid variety known as SL-8H, have increased their yield to 5.25 metric tons per hectare from the national average of less than four metric tons per hectare, making the country globally competitive in the rice trade, an agriculture official said.
Department of Agriculture regional chief Andrew Villacorta said hybrid rice production in Region Three costs P8.57 per kilo compared with the national average production cost of more than P10 per kilo.
“They ask if we’re ready for the Asean integration. In Region Three we’re ready,” Villacorta said.
Region Three, known as the “Rice Granary of the Philippines,” is composed of the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. The region contains the largest plains in the country.
Members of Asean—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—will be integrated as a single market this year. It aims to ensure a free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labor in the region.
Villacorta said Central Luzon contributed 360,000 metric tons, or about 72 percent of the total 500,000 metric tons incremental rice production in 2014.
The increment to the more than 19 million metric tons produced last year was brought about by use of SL-8H seeds and good working relationship between national, local governments and the private sector, Villacorta said.
He said the province of Tarlac and the municipality of La Paz each gave P1,000 per bag, per hectare subsidy to farmers on top of the P1,200 per hectare from the agriculture department.
Henry Lim Bon Liong, charman of SL Agritech Corp, a hybrid rice company, said the use of new technology would help the Philippines become competitive in the region.
“Because of hybrid rice, we’re able to export rice seeds to Vietnam. Papua New Guinea is a big area. It has been importing from Australia. Now, we have proven people wrong that rice cannot grow in PNG,” he said.
Tarlac Gov. Victor Yap urged government agencies to enter into a three-year agreement with rice producers and institutionalize the subsidy to farmers.
“It’s good that the DA recognizes that . . . we have to give subsidy, which is an important help to farmers in times when incomes are low,” Yap said. “This three year agreement will make it easy for the next administration to adopt a policy supporting hybrid rice.”