President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has agreed to expand the use of hybrid rice as a better alternative to the inbred variety of rice to increase crop production.
At the same time, the President said he was optimistic that the Philippines could come close to self sufficiency in rice in two years if the government can carry out a major reorganization of several key agencies.
The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) on Wednesday said the President met Tuesday with SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC) chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Henry Lim Bon Liong and various farmers from Central Luzon to address the challenges in the rice industry.
Marcos said he will implement a program to promote the shift to hybrid rice by providing subsidies and facilitating loan financing to farmers, the PCO said.
The President also vowed to apply the best practices being done by Central Luzon farmers in other areas in the country.
Citing a study by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and local government units, the PCO said the hybrid system has given 41 percent better yield than inbred conventional seeds over the past two years.
“Hybrid farmers have reported harvesting around seven to 15 metric tons (MT) per hectare as compared to the average 3.6 MT/hectare for inbred seeds,” the PCO said.
Bon Liong said that if adopted nationwide on a two-cropping cycle per year, hybrid technology will give better income to farmers and achieve rice sufficiency for the country.
From January to November 2022, the National Rice Program served 1.06 million rice farmers and 3,528 farmer cooperatives through the provision of hybrid and inbred or certified seeds, production-related and post-harvest machinery, small-scale irrigation, as well as extension and training activities.
Under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund Program, the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) granted P3.37 billion in zero-interest and non-collateral loans to 10,643 rice farmers and 197 borrower organizations and cooperatives.
Rice varieties on the market are classified based on the size of grains and on where they are grown. There are also classifications based on traditional, modern, and hybrid varieties.
Both traditional and modern varieties are called “inbred,” because they are reproduced through self-pollination or inbreeding, and the products or the seeds are what farmers use for planting.
Meanwhile, hybrid seeds are made by crossing two genetically different parent seeds with superior qualities to increase yield or production. However, planting these seeds is more complicated because, aside from higher production costs, seeds cannot be reused for another planting season.
After a meeting with officials from the DA and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the President said if they can do all that they need to do, the country will be close to self-sufficiency in rice in two years.
“There’s a great deal of work to do but we already saw how to do it. So that’s what we will work on for now.” he added.
The President said this requires cooperation, convergence, and coordination with other agencies such as the DA, NIA, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
“So our next meeting will be that. All of the concerned agencies are present and we will present the timetable as to what needs to be done, what forms of coordination need to be done,” he said.
The Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) program was created under Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law to improve the competitiveness of farmers amid the liberalization of the rice trade policy.
To complement the RCEF, the government has been implementing strategies to increase rice production, such as convincing irrigator associations (IA) and farmers to plant hybrid rice seeds, adopting alternate wetting and drying as a water-saving technology for irrigated lands, harvesting in September during the wet season, and ratooning, the cultivation practice of two harvests in one cropping season by producing a second crop from the original stubble.
NIA is implementing several measures to develop the country’s irrigation infrastructure.
These include public-private partnerships (PPPs) on irrigation infrastructure development, climate-proof infrastructure, flood control management, and massive reforestation of NIA-supervised watershed areas.
NIA, a government-owned or controlled corporation (GOCC) responsible for irrigation development and management, has a total investment pledge of more than P1 trillion from potential private partners, which would allow it to pursue its irrigation projects without the restriction of limited funding.
As of Dec. 31, 2021, only 2.04 million hectares (ha), or 65 percent of the country’s potential irrigable area of 3.13 million hectares, had been developed, benefitting around 1.5 million farmers with irrigation.
However, around 1.09 million ha (35 percent) of the remaining areas still need to be developed.