Irrigation network to support hybrid rice production
by Melody M. Aguiba
July 12, 2014
The Aquino government is considering schemes in supporting use of hybrid rice seeds through farmers’ irrigation network in light of a 400,000-hectare expansion aimed at raising food security.
The Office of the Presidential Assistant on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and Food Security (OPAFSAM) eyes the role of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in supporting expansion of hybrid rice.
“We’ll look at how we can continue to support the use of our hybrid rice seeds. This is a priority of NIA and its irrigators’ association,” according to OPAFSAM Secretary Francis N. Pangilinan at a University of Asia and the Pacific agriculture forum.
OPAFSAM has a timeline for the hybrid rice seed propagation.
“We will be working on planting in the last quarter initially and then we’ll expand next year. NIA precisely has programs to support irrigators’ association,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) previously had a clustering program that involved irrigators’ association by which to maximize help to farmers.
It involved clustering of farmers tilling around 100 hectares through which provision of seeds, credit, aid on post harvest and markets are channeled.
What government is really after are programs that will not only raise yield of agricultural crops but also farmers’ income.
“We talk about subsidies in the context of raising farmers’ income. We talk about providing mechanization in the context of raising income, not just of yield or just to provide support,” Pangilinan said.
Since poverty is dominant in rural areas where agriculture is, agriculture will primarily be the sector through which rural income levels will be raised.
“When we did 7.2 percent growth in 2013, agriculture lagged behind. Inclusive growth is not being met. Poverty is growing, joblessness is growing. If you want meaningful growth, it should be in agriculture. What’s the use of this 7.2 percent if farmers are in abject want?”
And it has been apparent hybrid rice will be one tool to achieving growth goals.
As the Philippines started exporting hybrid rice, the Doña Maria rice, to Dubai in 2013, it will have the competitive advantage in rice amid the impending ASEAN free trade implementation in 2015, according to SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong.
DA’s “10-5” program should raise farmers’ income and ensure food security using hybrid rice, Lim said. The 10-5 program aims to achieve a rice yield of 10 metric tons per hectare which will reduce production cost to P5 per kilo, effectively raising farmers’ income.
“At one time, DA Secretary (Proceso) Alcala came up with 10-5. There’s hope for us in the ASEAN integration if we plant hybrid rice,” said Lim in the same UA&P forum.
Farmers can realize a net income of at least P100,000 per hectare, double their regular income through 10.5.
Lim cited a rice farmer in Nueva Ecija, Jimmy Orate, who started planting hybrid rice on his only two hectares.
“I asked them to find out who the owner was of this tricycle. Before, tricycles had ‘Katas ng Saudi’. Now it’s ‘Katas ng SL-8 (hybrid seed). Jimmy started planting hybrid rice six years ago. He was able to send his only daughter to college, buy a tractor, and buy two tricycles.”
UA&P Executive Director Rolando Dy said the country’s farm sector has not been keeping up with its potential growth. The sector is only expanding by 1.5 to 2.5 percent. But the potential is at around five percent.
A change of paradigm – on how farmers and farming are valued—is needed order to help farmers, Pangilinan said.
“We need a changing of mindset and paradigm. Our colonial past created farming and farmers.
The Napoles funds are agriculture funds. There were bogus NGO farmer organizations. Our farmers are discriminated against, abused, neglected, and stolen from. It’s a cultural and political paradigm shifting that we have to do,” Pangilinan said.
There is a huge opportunity to grow agriculture because intervention in the sector may not have been very significant in the past.
“Our margin of growth is very high because there has been little meaningful intervention,” Pangilinan said.