The Department of Agriculture is allocating P500 million for programs that will encourage more farmers to plant hybrid rice varieties, as the government moves to attain national rice sufficiency by the end of the year.
According to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, P200 million will be spent this year while the remaining P300 million will be invested in 2014. The target is to increase hybrid rice utilization and hectarage by eight to 10 percent by 2014 from only 3.5 percent last year.
Alcala explained that the DA, under its national rice program, would continue to promote both private and public hybrids, particularly those developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) through the establishment of more technology-demonstrations farms in top rice-producing provinces.
The promotion of hybrid rice is an integral part of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the Aquino administration’s banner food security program that aims to attain sufficiency in rice and major staples like white corn, root crops and plantains.
Under the FSSP, the DA aims to produce a record harvest of 20 million tons (MT), up 11 percent from last year’s output of 18 million MT. At 20 million MT, the Philippines will attain self-sufficiency in rice, Alcala said.
“We are on track to achieving sufficiency in rice by the end of 2013,” Alcala stressed.
In the meantime, PhilRice director Eufemio Rasco Jr. said the goal of increasing hybrid rice utilization by as much as 10 percent in 2014 was attainable, as PhiRice-developed mestizo hybrids could produce up to 12 tons per hectare, under favorable conditions and proper farm management.
For this year, the DA plans to expand the area planted to hybrids by 72 percent to 284,400 hectares, from last year’s 164,787 hectares, added Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dante Delima. Last year’s hybrid rice hectarage represented 3.5 percent of the country’s total harvested area of 4.69 million hectares.
In 2014, the hybrid rice hectarage will be expanded further to 388,000 hectares, said Delima, who also serves as the DA national rice program coordinator.
Delima urged private seed producers to actively participate in the P400-million ‘Sikat-Saka’ credit program, and encourage qualified farmers, particularly those belonging to irrigators’ associations in top 20 rice producing provinces, to plant hybrids.
Sikat-Saka was piloted last year in four major rice provinces of Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Iloilo and North Cotabato. It will be expanded this year to include 16 other top rice producers, said Delima. These include Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Zamboanga del Sur.