THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will intensify the hybrid rice program in the country to boost farmers’ income and competitiveness under the new rice regime.
To do this, the annual tariff revenues in excess of the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will be used for the hybrid rice program.
“This is the direction… whatever is still needed like fertilization program, we will add to the RCEF on top of the P10 billion. Whatever will be the excess will go to the hybrid rice program,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said recently.
As more rice has to be produced on less land and with less farm inputs, the government, particularly the DA, will continue to push farmers to use hybrid rice seeds.
Hybrid rice technology is currently considered as the most viable option to raise farmer’s yield without additional rice lands thus increasing over-all rice productivity and profitability.
The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), an attached agency of the DA, has recognized the benefits of good rice hybrids which have the potential to yield 15-20 percent more than the best inbred variety grown under similar conditions.
Because of its ability to perform better under adverse conditions of drought and salinity, hybrid rice seeds were also considered as a major solution to meet the domestic demand for rice amid the country’s growing population.
Promoting hybrid rice technology is one approach of the department’s catch up plan to help increase the competitiveness of Filipino farmers who have been lagging behind compared to planters in neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, said Agriculture Assistant Secretary Andrew Villacorta.
“We will elevate the hybrid rice program and this means we will really campaign for it for farmers to plant more hybrid then [establish] partnership with the private sector,” Villacorta said.
He said there is a huge gap between the yield of farmers using inbred and hybrid rice seeds. Through hybrid rice farming, the DA is optimistic the country’s rice production will eventually recover.
“In Nueva Ecija, the average is almost 9 metric tons (MT) for farmers using hybrid rice seeds. If you compare it to the national average of only 4 MT, you will see the difference,” he said.
Villacorta said Dar, who has been in his post for less than three weeks, sought for the entire budget under the National Rice Program to be devoted to promoting hybrid rice farming.
“There is already P3 billion for inbred under RCEF so on the regular [rice] program, we will focus there (hybrid),” he said.
For 2020, Villacorta said the DA is alloting an initial P2 billion for seeds and model farms for hybrid rice farming. This year, about P1.4 billion was alloted for hybrid.
“Currently, we have model farms using both hybrid and inbread but next year, we will all make them hybrid. Our whole fund for seeds will be devoted to hybrid,” Villacorta said.
The Philippines recorded its highest rice production in 2017 at 19.28 million MT, a 9.5-percent increase from the 17.6 million MT in 2016.