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The challenge of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to farmers to produce 10 t/ha and limiting expenses to P5 for every kilo produced under the Palayabangan: 10-5 Challenge will help prepare farmers for the free trade in 2015.

In his speech during the PhilRice-hosted Lakbay-Palay 2013, Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., PhilRice executive director, said that one of the issues confronting the country’s economy, including its farming sector, is the free trade regime that will come into force in 2015.

As stipulated in the ASEAN Economic Community blueprint, free trade paves the way for the establishment of a single market and production base among Southeast Asian countries. This means that there will be a free flow of goods including rice, services, investment, capital, and skilled labor among the countries that form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

Rasco said under the ASEAN free trade regime, imported rice will become cheaper which poses a challenge to Filipino farmers.

“But if we achieve 10-5, our farmers will still gain even if rice will be priced at P10 a kilo. It is important to control the cost of input because the cost of rice production in the Philippines came out to be P11/k while other Southeast Asian countries spend P8 or lower,” Rasco explained.

The Palayabangan: 10-5 Challenge, a nationwide rice production competition lead by PhilRice, was joined by farmers, non-government organizations, academicians and government officials, and fertilizer companies. It started in June and is ongoing.

Ernesto Pacol, a farmer for seven years from Bulacan who participated in the Lakbay-Palay 2013, said that after seeing the Palayabangan sites, he realized that it is possible to lower his expenses in for rice farming.

For his part, Antonio Emingan, a farmer for 30 years from Nueva Ecija, said, “I learned that I can produce more than I have been producing with the piece of land I`m farming. I can also reduce my expenses in many ways.”

Rasco said that with the Department of Agriculture (DA) pursuing rice self-sufficiency for the Philippines, it is imperative that other stakeholders pitch in their efforts.

“Rice self-sufficiency is not the DA`s responsibility alone, but it is every Filipino’s responsibility. Because if consumers waste rice, the efforts of farmers to produce more will be in vain,” he added.

Meanwhile, Atty. Selmo Thomas Balmores, representative of Congressman Mark Llandro Mendoza, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Food in the House of Representatives, said that Filipinos need to help each other to attain the DA’s goals and objectives toward rice self-sufficiency.

“The world`s population is continuously increasing which means more people are to be fed. There will come a time when there will be shortage of land for agriculture. If we are not competitive, we might be relying on importing products from other countries. This is why the government is promoting food security and competitiveness,” he said.

In case of need, farmers may seek help from DA`s Agriculture Competitive Transmit Fund, or technical and financial assistance from the Department of Science and Technology, Balmores added.

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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