The Department of Agriculture has targeted a hybrid rice area of an unprecedented 1.2 to 1.3 million hectares for crop year 2022 after a lull in hybrid planting as it aims to boost food security amid the continuing COVID 19 pandemic.
At least 700 hectares of hybrid rice are being readied for the bumper dry season of 2022. That leaves around 500 to 600 hectares for the less anticipated rainy season, but still a big area compared to previous years.
Out of the 15 priority provinces, five provinces already have identified locations. These top five provinces are Bukidnon, Bicol, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, and Ilocos.
“For our third year now, we have aggressively pursued hybrid rice planting. That is the reason why we have been able to attain the highest level of rice production this year. With hybrid rice, you’re sure to automatically harvest an additional 1.52 metric tons per hectare versus inbred,” said Dr. Frisco Malabanan, DA rice program consultant.
The Philippines posted a record rice harvest of 19.44 million MT in 2020 from 18.81 million MT in 2019.
Yet, the DA budget for the food security program for 2022 has yet to be assured for the hybrid rice program to sustain.
“The budget of DA for food security has yet to be approved. It’s still being discussed in the Senate,” Malabanan said in a statement.
Private seed growers have committed to supply DA the needed hybrid rice seeds. They are readying the rice area particularly involving DA’s rice clustering program.
The clustering program consolidates a hybrid rice area of at least 100 hectares particularly in 15 priority provinces.
“We assure government of our support for this public partnership program. It will be the key to our goal for food sufficiency and food security,” said Rice Board President Recher Ondap.
“We hope to be assured of the government’s budget allocation as many farmers have started land preparation for the dry season 2022. Budgetary support should not only be for this rice clustering program but for the entire food sufficiency and resiliency program.”
The DA has been successful in restoring the hybrid rice program after it secured a budget for this in the last two years.
“Secretary (William) Dar has been supported by the economic managers in the budget for hybrid rice. Prior to this, our hybrid rice area was only at around 300,000 to 400,000 hectares,” Malabanan said.
Under the hybrid rice program, DA allocated a seed subsidy of P5,000 per hectare. This is with a fertilizer support of three vouchers per farmer equivalent to P1,000 per voucher.
But these are not the only things needed for the DA rice program to take off. The programs on irrigation, fertilization, mechanization also have to be funded.
DA also has a separate program for certified rice seeds under RCEP (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
DA envisions the Rice Clustering Program to be a banner program for achieving a highly competitive status in rice sector.
The Rice Clustering Program will be a model of best practices focused initially in the 15 priority provinces.
However, the model can be replicated in all of Philippines’ regions.
The clustered area will be a model for the use of high yielding seeds, balanced fertilization, adequate irrigation, use of modern machines for land preparation and post harvest, availability of credit, use of technology for various cultural practices, and market linkage.
The clustered areas will no longer just be technology demonstration (techno-demo) or trial areas but will be sustaining commercial farms.
The Rice Board has long been supporting DA’s hybrid rice program. In particular,
Rice board’s private seed growers have consistently participated in the yearly National Rice Technology Forum.
It is a competition for the highest rice yield administered by DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice).
A total of 13 techno-demo trials had been carried out by the DA. local government units, and private sector under the NRTF in the last seven years as an effort to transfer hybrid rice technology to farmers.
The last one was held in Leyte. Report on the trials came out last October 12, 2021.
Under DA’s Memo Circular (MC) No. 11 issued June 2, 2021, these clustered hybrid rice farms should produce at least one metric ton (MT) higher yield than certified inbred seeds. Or yield should be equivalent to at least 5 MT per hectare.
The seed companies also provide the needed technical support to farmers and guide them on the proper management of their varieties.
“The Rice Board adheres to this provision,” Ondap said. “In fact, seed companies are employing more technical people to better facilitate the transfer of hybrid rice technology to farmers.”
As they are expected to churn out high yield, these hybrid rice farms should raise the country’s food self sufficiency. They should reduce rice imports now reaching to some two million MT yearly. This program should also reduce production cost and increase the income of rice farmers.
“Any country in the world, if it can produce its staple locally, it would do it because it’s difficult to be depending on the world market for your staple’s supply,” Malabanan said.