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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hybrid rice varieties can make RP self-sufficient in rice

At least 800,000 hectares planted to hybrid rice (HR) can make the Philippines self-sufficient in this cereal.

This was asserted by Henry Lim Bon Liong, chairman chief executive officer of SL Agritech Corp., the country’s top hybrid rice producer.

ST Agritech maintains a 40-ha research and demonstration (R&D) farm at Barangay Ogong in this capital town situated about 100 kilometers southeast of Manila. It also has 700-ha production area in Lupon, Davao Oriental.

Lim stressed hybrid rice’s potential in making the country self-sufficient in this crop to officers of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists, Inc. (PAJ) who visited SL Agritech’s R&D farm here recently.

At present, according to government statistics, average yield from inbred (ordinary) rice varieties is only 2.8 tons per hects. Average yield of a hybrid rice variety is 6.5 t/ha.

Of the country’s 4.2-ha farmlands devoted to rice, only about 300,000 ha are planted to hybrid varieties.

The country is expected to produce 17.3 million metric tons of palay (11.2 million mt milled rice) this year but the requirement is 12.1 million mt.

Lim told the agriculture journalists that those planting the three percent — 8M hybrid rice variety bred by his corporation have been averaged 8-10 t/ha. But there are exceptional farmers who have been harvesting much more.

One is Adelaida Badong of Baao, Camarines Sur, who reaped 344 cav/ha in 2005. Another, Fernando Gabuyo of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, produced 355 cav/ha.

Once, Lim told the journalists, a team of SL Agritech, while on to Cagayan Valley, spotted a tricycle bearing a small streamer on which were emblazoned the words “Katas ng SL — 8M”. When interviewed, the driver said he had earned from planting the hybrid rice variety enough to buy two tricycles and to purchase two more hectares of ricefields to add up to his original two ha.

But a few others have become millionaires because of HR. Example is a young farmer who netted P115,000/ha in his 18-ha farm.

In the latest cropping season, some farmers in Talavera, Nueva Ecija, who planted HR also average 10 /tha.

Lim asked the government, with media’s support, to intensify its information program to increase farmers’ awareness on the potentials of hybrid rice.

As it is, he said, more than 90 percent of the country’s farmers have not chosen to plant HR for one reason or another.

Moreover, there are those who continue to criticize the HR program.

Lim did not elaborate, but from this corner’s observations, the disparaging words came from the usual government critics and from farmers themselves who tried the technology but failed because they did not meticulously follow the recommendations in growing hybrid rice.

Once, a Southeast Asian group accused the government of implementing the Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program “even in the absence of proofs that it does increase farmers’ yields.”

A daily newspaper (not The STAR) also had headlined a news report branding hybrid rice as “fit only for animals.”

But the “swivel-chair critics” conveniently glossed over success stories.

“Hybrid rice production is not a lazy man’s job,” outstanding San Mateo (Isabela)) HR farmer Honorato Maningas stressed when interviewed by researchers Imelda Olvida, Charisma Love Gado, and Salembai Abdullah of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice).

“Some of them (other farmers) are lazy, stubborn, and impatient,” he said.

San Mateo farmer Flor Ramento also volunteered: “My highest yield in inbred rice was only 120 cav/ha. With hybrid, my highest yield was 180 cav/ha. From my profit, I was able to buy farm machines. More important, my children finished schooling (accounting and nursing) through my earnings from hybrid rice.”

Down south, Renerio Guevarra of Digos City, Davao del Sur, told PhilRice: “As long as I use hybrid rice, I get a yield of at least 13 t/ha.

Badong also advised: “Mas maganda siguro kung subukan muna nilang (critics) magtanim ng hybrid rice para ma-experience din nila. Kaya siguro nila nasasabi yung mga negatibong bagay na yan kasi hindi pa nila nasusubukan. Nakikinig lamang sila siguro sa sabi-sabi.” [source of good news]

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