• SEARCA offers PH link to research network

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    A South East Asian think tank has offered to link the government to its vast regional research network after hosting Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s consultation with farmers on rice technologies.

    The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) offered Piñol its technical expertise in agricultural development research.
    SEARCA’s knack for agricultural research can play a pivotal role in Philippines’ agricultural programs especially as it enters into the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) era, the agency said in a statement.

    “We have noted that President Duterte’s 8-point agenda places strong emphasis on agricultural development. Over many years, we have been providing technical assistance to national government agencies to promote agricultural and rural development,” said SEARCA Executive Dir. Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. in an offer of service to Piñol.

    Saguiguit told Piñol SEARCA’s research on rice smuggling could be tapped by the Department of Agriculture to solve smuggling problems that have subjected Filipino farmers to poverty.

    SEARCA hosted Piñol’s farmers’consultation at its University of the Philippines Los Banos headquarters late last month. The consultation aimed to present winning technologies that will lure rice farmers to better techniques, particularly hybrid rice, that will uplift them from poverty.

    Model farmers harvested up to 14 metric tons (MT) per hectare of palay (paddy rice), virtually liberating them from long-time poverty, SEARCA said in its presentation.

    The highest harvester was Edgardo Marcelo of Guimba, Nueva Ecija who reaped 14 MT per hectare. He consistently got high yield from hybrid rice SL-8H during the dry season since 2010.

    Another high yielder was 46-year old Lyndon Basilio of San Isidro, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur. His highest yield was 9.9 MT per hectare using hybrids M20 and M1.

    Rodil Parcon of Pototan, Iloilo was another winner hybrid grower. He harvested 186 bags per hectare of Mestizo 1, much higher compared to his average production of 70 to 100 bags per hectare using inbreds.

    From Mindanao (Kibuaya, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur), the model farmer was Martiniano Ypil Cole. His highest yield was 10.1 MT per hectare, practically double the usual yield of an average of Filipino rice farmer which is only at 5 MT per hectare.

    SEARCA is a treaty organization of 11 members of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).

    SEARCA’s five-year plan (2014-2019) focuses on inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD).

    SEARCA provides scholarships in agriculture and related fields at the graduate level “and training for middle and top-level university and government executives, researchers, policymakers, and development practitioners,” the agency said.

    Besides rice research and development, SEARCA has programs in other agriculture ventures, such as a value chain analysis on carabao dairy and meat products in Visayas and Mindanao. SEARCA explained that its main contribution so far has been the deployment of a globally-used Value Chain Analysis tool for the local carabao center, enabling farmers and other players in the farm sector to earn acceptable profit over the long haul.

    “In the overall value chain, farmers are the losers for getting the lowest gain from carabao production. A value chain assessment will identify constraints facing key players and suggest policy directions to enhance competitiveness and participation of smallhold farmers,” SEARCA said.

    Another Philippines project is enhancing link of small farmers to markets in order to cut traders’ income and channel this income to farm families, which aligns with a pronouncement by Secretary Piñol in June that he would like to reduce the influence of so-called ‘middlemen’ on food prices. SEARCA’s focus is specifically on the rice, corn, and coconut sectors where farmers are among those that need government assistance the most.

    The research agency stressed that in light of the Asean economic integration, it was seeking more ways to make its services available to all the Asean countries, including knowledge resources, technical expertise, networks of alumni and experts, and institutional partners.

    “Asean is progressively moving toward regional economic integration– single production and market base. SEARCA cannot be just a passive observer of the evolving AFTA (Asean Free trade Agreement) and AEC (Asean Economic Community). The preparations will require rigorous and objective studies that analyze policy options,” the agency said.

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