A PhilRice-IRRI study recommends the use of hybrid varieties, optimal use of fertilizers, training of more farmers on rice technologies, and educating future farmers as some of the ways to boost rice productivity in the country.
These recommendations came from the study titled Benchmarking the Philippine Rice Economy Relative to Major Rice-Producing Countries in Asia. Co-implemented by PhilRice and IRRI, the study was presented in a research seminar on 3 December at the Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City.
Assessments were done in sites representing irrigated and intensively cultivated areas in six countries: the Philippines (Nueva Ecija), China (Zhejiang), India (Tamil Nadu), Indonesia (West Java), Thailand (Suphan Buri) and Vietnam (Can Tho).
In a comparative annual yield across the six countries at 14% moisture content, the study showed that the Philippines is at par during the high yielding season (5.68 t/ha) but the least during the low yielding season (3.84 t/ha).
Vietnam is the highest yielder both in high and low yielding seasons at 8.56 t/ha and 6.33 t/ha, respectively. Additionally, Vietnam’s extra cropping season yield of 5.69 t/ha gives them 20.59 t/ha in a year compared to the Philippine’s 9.52 t/ha.
According to Dr. Flordeliza H. Bordey, a PhilRice socio-economist and project lead, Vietnam’s ability to plant thrice in a year is due to the general availability of water, use of early maturing varieties, direct seeding, and synchronous planting.
After accounting for input use, the study cited that yield in the Philippines is significantly lower than in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, which could be due to environmental conditions such as soil, water, and climate. In contrast, Philippine yield is not significantly different from yield in India and Thailand.
In terms of seeding rate, Thailand and Vietnam have the highest because they widely practice direct seeding. The Philippines, Indonesia, and India have low seeding rates due to transplanting.
The same study revealed that Filipino farmers use 35 varieties, the highest among the six countries, compared with the Chinese who only use 7 varieties.
While the use of many varieties provides greater diversity and controls for pests, Bordey explained that this could have implications in the processing phase.
“Processors do not like to mill plenty of varieties that have different characteristics. This affects the efficiency of their milling operations, and they are forced to mix multiple varieties that could eventually affect the quality of the final milled rice,” Bordey furthered.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is among the least users of pesticides in rice production. Researchers of the study said that Filipino farmers should be lauded for their judicious use of pesticides.
Increasing labor productivity has also been cited as a key to improve efficiency in rice production. While the Philippine government intensively promotes farm mechanization, the study found that use of combine harvester remains low at 5% in 2013.
Additionally, rice-based farming system such as the Palayamanan model is suggested to increase land productivity.
Bordey emphasized that “high productivity is one of the basics of being competitive” with our regional neighbors in the ASEAN economic community.