Cut-throat competition characterizes the liberalized rice trade regime. This makes it vital for Filipino farmers to be globally competitive. What does that entail?

They use modern, environment-friendly technologies

The book, “Competitiveness of Philippine Rice in Asia,” notes that “to be competitive, farmers [and processors] must produce rice with the same or superior quality at costs lower than those of international competitors.” Economists interpret this as increasing farmers’ yield from 4t/ha to 5-6t/ha as well as reducing production cost by 30%, postharvest losses to 12%, and cost from drying to retailing by P1/kg.

PhilRice experts espouse the use of high-quality seeds of a recommended variety for a specific location, coupled with appropriate, integrated crop management practices to achieve a 10% or more yield increment with low environmental impact.

Raising the level of mechanization and automation can also help reduce production cost, enhance farm operations and use of inputs, and elevate farmers’ income. Additionally, this may entice more youth into farming, as they tend to be more open to innovations than the aged farmers, and view farming more as a business rather than an occupation.

“Using the mechanical transplanter and the combine harvester can reduce labor cost by P4 to P5/kg of palay,” PHilMech accounted.

Regularly seeking credible information leads to knowledge of available modern technologies for more efficient and profitable ways of producing rice.

They follow global crop management standards

The country already has a set of Good Agricultural Practices for Rice (GAP for Rice) that covers production, harvesting, and on-farm post-harvest handling and storage of paddy rice to ensure product quality and safety. The Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards is working on the Philippine National Standards for Grains – Grading and Classification for Paddy and Milled Rice. It encompasses recommended product specifications, packaging, and labeling of paddy and milled rice to be sold in the local and international markets.

“Farmers should strive for quality process in producing rice. Just like any product, better quality whether in seeds, paddy, milled rice or cooked rice, translates to better market value,” Dr. Marissa Romero, PhilRice food scientist reminded.

They are active, responsible members of an organized, business-oriented group

Alice Mataia, supervising science research specialist at PhilRice, stated that organized groups of farmers gain more if they particularly capture the value-adding activities in the rice value chain. This includes input provision to production, aggregation, milling or processing, and distribution. In truth, a number of farmer groups have proven that working together expands opportunities to acquire inputs, market produce, and gain income in a more sustainable manner.

Kalinga’s Macutay Farmers’ Association has modeled how their members are able to use modern technologies, such as highquality seeds, nutrient management tools, and farm machines to sophisticate their production. They now have over P2.4M worth of total assets that the group uses to sustain the needs of their members.

Iloilo’s Kaitlingban Sang mga Agraryo Padulong sa Pag-Uswag sang Iloilo Agrarian Reform Beneficiary MPC is connected to several institutional buyers in selling the produce of its 400 members.

South Cotabato’s Binhian ng Timog Kutabato MPC has benefited from government assistance in the form of farm machines that they rent out to their members. This generated a steady income for the group, which they use to establish more services to farming communities. Meanwhile, business in rice can also go beyond milled rice.

“Rather than increasing rice production alone, adding value to rice by creating healthy and nutritious rice-based products spurs the economic activity of rice-farming communities. It increases their profitability and eventually enhances their nutritional status and overall quality of life,” PhilRice food nutritionist and rice-based product developer Dr. Riza Abilgos-Ramos emphasized.

Like any other venture, rice business by organized farmers’ groups also requires farmers to invest in their enterprise and become financially literate. Farmers need to learn how to manage their finances. If they need to make a loan to augment their existing resources, they should also be responsible enough to pay on time. They should also enroll in crop insurance to mitigate impacts of certain risks.

They have a strong sense of mission and patriotism

Beyond the technologies and critical skills needed to engage in the free trade, globally-competitive farmers strongly commit to a mission of improving the volume and quality of their rice production, and help fellow farmers and the country. Nothing beats the spirit of unity and patriotism.

Becoming a globally-competitive farmer is not easy. However, if the Filipino rice farmers would go out of their way to enter into a productive, profitable, resilient, and sustainable rice venture, then they can survive, or even conquer, the global market.•

This article was published in PhilRice Magazine Vol 32 No. 4 – Oct- Dec 2019

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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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