PROGRAM PREPARES RICE FARMERS FOR SOUTHEAST ASIAN FREE TRADE

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The challenge of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to farmers to produce 10 metric tons per hectare and limiting production expenses to P5 for every kilo produced under the “Palayabangan: 10-5 Challenge” will help prepare farmers for free trade in 2015.

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Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., PhilRice executive director, said that one of the issues confronting the country’s economy, including its farming sector, is the free-trade regime that will come into force in 2015.

As stipulated in the Asean Economic Community blueprint, free trade paves the way for the establishment of a single market and production base among Southeast Asian countries. This means that there will be a free flow of goods including rice, services, investment, capital and skilled labor among the countries that form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Rasco said that under the Asean free-trade regime, imported rice will become cheaper which poses a challenge to Filipino farmers.

“But if we achieve 10-5, our farmers will still gain even if rice will be priced at P10 a kilo. It is important to control the cost of input because the cost of rice production in the Philippines came out to be P11 per kilo while other Southeast Asian countries spend P8 or lower [per kilo],” Rasco explained.

The “Palayabangan: 10-5 Challenge,” a nationwide rice production competition lead by PhilRice, was joined by farmers, nongovernment organizations, academi-cians and government officials and ferti- lizer companies. It started in June and is ongoing.

Ernesto Pacol, a farmer for seven years from Bulacan, said that after seeing the Palayabangan sites, he realized that it is possible to lower his expenses in for rice farming.

For his part, Antonio Emingan, a farmer for 30 years from Nueva Ecija, said, “I learned that I can produce more than I have been producing with the piece of land I’m farming. I can also reduce my expenses in many ways.”

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