DA Bicol adopts 5-point agenda for rice sufficiency

By Bobby Q. Labalan SORSOGON CITY --- Agriculture officials are optimistic that Philippines would be rice-sufficient by 2020 with the adoption of its 5-point agenda for increased rice production. Elena Delos Santos, DA-Bicol regional director, in a gathering here the other day said that Agriculture Sec. Manuel Pinol has laid down strategies to attain rice sufficiency which the DA_Bicol is now adopting to achieve what Pinol dubbed as “Rice Sufficiency in 2020” program. Topping this agenda is the DA’s campaign for the utilization of hybrid seeds instead of the usual certified seeds to increase rice yield four-fold per hectare, Delos Santos said. Addressing government officials led by Congw. Evelina Escudero and Cong. Deogracias Ramos, Delos Santos explained that certified seeds could only produce a maximum of 4 metric tons per hectare per harvest while hybrid seeds can yield up to 16 metric tons per hectare. Delos Santos, however, admitted that using hybrid seeds is more costly compared to certified seeds as the latter is fertilizer-intensive. The seeds itself are costlier as they are priced at P5,000 per bag as against the P1,600 per bag of certified seeds, the director added. “We have established techno demo farms using hybrid seeds in strategic areas to encourage farmers to shift to this type of farming,” the official said, adding that they are targeting at least 10,000 hectares this year. She said that they would also intensify the fertilization program to assist farmer in maximizing their production potential. Delos Santos, however, urged farmers to subject their soils to laboratory analysis to determine the nutrients needed by their farms. The agriculture department would also pursue mechanization particularly on post-harvest needs to minimize if not prevent post-harvest losses. Pinol, in his recent visit to this province, had noted that about 16 per cent of palay produce are lost due to post harvest processes, which is equivalent to at least 3.2 million metric tons annually. “This could be avoided if we intensify the use of machineries so that our farmers would have higher recovery, thus more income,” he said during the distribution fiber glass banca at Casiguran, Sorsogon two weeks ago. Along this line, Delos Santos said that they have been pursuing mechanized rice production and would only shift focus to post harvest facilities. During the gathering, Pinol also announced that the government has allocated P2 billion for the free irrigation system, which is part of the 5-point strategy, to ensure that rice farms have enough water supply. “President Duterte has approved this scheme thus farmers no longer have to pay for the irrigation of their farms,” he stressed. Payment of irrigation fees had been a contentious issue between farmers’ organizations and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) as lack of access to irrigation is one of the main cause of low rice production in the country. To assist farmers as well as fishermen purchase their needs, the agriculture secretary also revealed the establishment of the Farmer and Fisherfolks Quick Credit Facility (FFQCF) which would provide quick loans to farmers and fishermen. Pinol said the facility would provide farmers and fishermen quick loans that they can use for their production and operation requirements. “The loans need no collateral, all the farmers and fishermen have to do is for them to register with the DA so they can avail of P50,000 fund,” he said. The agriculture chief said the loan would be released within three days and 50 per cent of the amount will be released to the farmer immediately while the other half will serve as credit line which they can use to purchase their needs while waiting for harvest time. Pinol also said that loan payment would only start after 3 years for rice farmers and 5 to 10 years for coco farmers. “We will not demand for payment immediately, they must be given enough time to recover and stabilize operation before we ask them to pay.” The DA secretary said that through these approaches he is confident that rice production would significantly increase and would be adequate enough for the needs of the country. Mediaworks Communication