Farmers under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) have achieved gains from its programs’ services including provision of certified seeds, training, and communication support.

In the programs’ review being held at DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) on Feb. 6-8, implementers reported that seed recipients increased their average yield as shown in the midterm and seasonal monitoring and evaluation surveys conducted in the 42 original target provinces of the RCEF Seed Program.

In the dry season 2023, their average yield increased from 3.63t/ha in 2019 to 4.36t/ha while the use of the recommended packages of technology in PalaySikatan demonstration sites reached an average of 5.22t/ha.

As of January 21, 2024, about 15.85 million bags of certified seeds of inbred rice varieties were distributed to around two million unique farmer-beneficiaries across 77 provinces in the country from dry season 2020 to 2024. Around 2 million hectares are planted annually.

Survey also showed that high utilization rate of RCEF seeds led to the increased adoption of certified seeds in target provinces. RCEF seed utilization among the RCEF seed beneficiaries during the 2022 wet season to 2023 dry season is at 94-96%, compared with the baseline data of 85-94% during the 2020 dry and wet seasons.

To ensure adequate supply of certified seeds, 66 seed growers’ cooperatives and associations were strengthened and engaged as partner-cooperatives of PhilRice in the propagation and delivery of certified seeds of inbred rice varieties.

The program also helped farmers reduce their fertilizer expenses through the crop-response-based fertilizer recommendations given to more than 400 cities/ municipalities. Half of these received the recommendations through IEC materials and stakeholder engagement activities.

“Joining RCEF has led to a 50% reduction in our expenses, dropping from P20,000 to P10,000 per hectare,” Juanito A. Oliquiano Polillo, Quezon said. He added that using certified seeds and proper fertilizer application also reduced seed usage from 100 to 40kg/ha.

Meanwhile, the Training of Trainers on Pest and Nutrient Management under the RCEF Rice Extension Services Program implemented by PhilRice significantly enhanced the participants’ farming practices, boosted their confidence in technology dissemination specifically focusing on pest and nutrient management technologies, and empowered them to actively engage in conducting training activities.

“The RCEF training greatly uplifted our farming practices, boosting our confidence to share our learnings with fellow farmers. We feel like upgraded versions, and we’re thankful to PhilRice and our high-caliber trainers,” training graduate Kryztof Ray C. Carillo said.

Implementers said that each region now has 25-48 rice experts who will help farmers diagnose field problems while more than 4,300 graduates of training of trainers nationwide now teach farmers and setting-up varietal trials in more than 300 farm schools. More than 4,000 farmers were also trained on production of high-quality inbred rice and farm mechanization and on pest and nutrient management.

The seed distribution activities and training courses were also complemented with more than 5 million copies of IEC materials that were produced and distributed nationwide and with various formats of knowledge sharing and learning activities reaching at least 18 million rice farmers, intermediaries, and other stakeholders.

Study among 154 farmer-beneficiaries showed the printed material that was distributed during the 2020-2021 seed distribution was being read. Half of them mostly adopted the contents on nutrient management, land preparation, seedbed preparation and seedling management, and harvesting that increased their yields, improved their farming practices, and reduced their cost.

“I learned new methods of farming through the RCEF IEC materials.  It became my guide or basis from planting rice to harvesting,” Edward Quilana of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur said.

The RCEF Seed and Rice Extension Services programs are components of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law, which allots P10 billion funds yearly for rice farmers. Sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the program is a six-year government initiative to help farmers improve their competitiveness.

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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