Officials and farmers have commended the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) for leading the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)-Seed Program and co-implementing the RCEF-Extension Program.

In her opening statement during the Program’s Midyear Review and Assessment on Aug. 4-6, Sen. Cynthia Villar said the Institute has done what is essential in serving the rice farmers.

“PhilRice was able to deliver high-quality inbred rice seeds, conduct extension work, and innovate its approaches despite the pandemic. It takes a lot of sacrifices especially because the cropping calendar is fixed and the communities that need to be reached have quarantine issues. Still, you were able to evolve and respond well to your mandate under the Rice Tariffication Law,” the chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food said.

Records show that the RCEF-Seed Program has distributed 6.5 million bags of certified inbred seeds to over 1.2 million rice farmers after four planting seasons of implementation.

Seed distribution activities have reached 57 provinces covering 956 cities and municipalities in the first three planting seasons and 42 provinces covering 722 cities/municipalities in the latest season.

Villar also lauded DA-PhilRice’s effort in introducing the digital voucher system called Binhi e-Padala, which was found to shorten queueing time of farmers in getting the seeds, improve the program’s logistics, and facilitated next-day payment to seed growers’ cooperatives.

Based on the Institute’s Socioeconomics Division monitoring and evaluation survey conducted among RCEF seed beneficiaries, it was found that the yield of the respondents significantly increased from 3.62t/ha in the 2019 dry season (DS) to 4.17t/ha this 2021 DS.

Under RCEF Extension, Villar also recognized the Institute‘s effort in disseminating information on cost-reducing and yield-enhancing technologies and practices through online and onsite training activities, IEC materials, and other communication platforms.

From 2019 to 2021, 159 rice specialists and 618 trainers were produced under the DA-PhilRice’s RCEF training programs. The new trained rice specialists complement the pool of rice experts in a locality. Currently, all regions in the country are already deployed with rice specialists.

Meanwhile, around 1.49 million farmers received technical briefings and various IEC materials were produced and distributed to rice farmers, extension workers, and other stakeholders. Rice production recommendations are also being promoted through the print, radio, and social media.

Based on the same survey, 97% of the respondents who had access to the communication services said they have applied the knowledge they learned from them.

“This is an example of public service at its best. PhilRice has evolved and responded very well to the needs of the rice industry and the demands of the times. I thank PhilRice for being true to its mandate under RCEF,” Villar expressed.

Meanwhile, Christian Ramos, rice coordinator from the DA-Regional Field Office III said farmers, local government units (LGUs), and seed growers’ cooperatives from Luzon A cluster have good impressions on the RCEF-Seed Program implementation.

“The utilization of high-quality seeds in Central Luzon has increased these past seasons through RCEF. The seed growers’ cooperatives and associations informed us they were happy to be given the opportunity to produce more seeds and be organized. More importantly, the farmers were content with what they received from the program because their areas were provided with sufficient, high-quality inbred seeds,” Ramos shared.

Orlando Cruz, one of the RCEF Seed farmer-beneficiaries from Guiguinto, Bulacan said his production yield increased after using the certified seeds from RCEF.

“Through the NSIC Rc 436 I received from the program, I harvested 168cav in a hectare! Now, I’m slowly recovering from my previous losses,” Cruz noted.

In a separate interview, Jomar Guevarra, municipal agriculturist of Candaba, Pampanga said they are fully supporting the program because of the service it brings to farmers. 

“Seeds from RCEF go through a rigorous process of examination and testing so we can assure the farmers that the seeds they receive are of high quality. The good thing is that they can have these seeds for free, which gives farmers satisfaction,” Guevarra noted.

The RCEF-Seed and Extension Programs are components of the Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law signed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, which allocates a P10 billion fund every year for the rice farmers.  Sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the program is a six-year government initiative to help the farmers compete in the international rice market. The LGUs and lawmakers assist in its implementation. Farmers under this program can also avail of training, machines, and credit with low interest.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute