Written by the Web Team

 

Flexibility is one thing that rice can boast of as a living organism, PhilRice Executive Director Eufemio T. Rasco Jr. said. This he noted in the midst of abnormal weather challenges that confront rice production.

In a statement Rasco noted the ability of rice to withstand a wide range of ecosystems, given appropriate technologies and environments.

“Rice can actually survive disasters. We just need more R&D to continue to improve our outputs and bring technologies to farmer. Matching these technologies to suitable environments is the key,” Rasco said.

Rasco added that the natural calamities experienced in the country have only become a constraint because of the lack of efficient infrastructure, specifically shipping which, according to him, is still very primitive, unreliable, and costly.

“Our neighboring countries have also had their share of floods, drought, pests, among other challenges that confronted their rice production. But they managed to move on because of consistent government intervention,” Rasco said.

While it is true that certain areas are more suitable for rice than the others, Rasco stressed that rice is a very flexible crop and that technologies and strategies are continuously being developed to address the problem.

“PhilRice has developed varieties that can withstand flooding, drought, and salinity. We are currently working on varieties that can survive a 37-degree Celcius temperature, among other breakthroughs. We take breaking productivity plateau as our task,” Rasco explained.

The Palayabangan challenge participated by individual farmers, private companies, and PhilRice showed that yields of 10 t/ha at a cost of less than P5/kg during the dry season and 7 tons/ha at P7/kg during the wet season is attainable. This is competitive with that of the world`s most efficient rice producers like China and India.

Rasco said it is possible for other farmers to attain such yields.

“There are actually a wide range of options our farmers can resort into, if we push for exploring our rice environment. Featuring rice as the main crop supports other major needs of the country such as energy, feed, and raw materials for industries,” Rasco said.

Studies at PhilRice proved that the rice environment can sustain other crops (e.g. mungbean and vegetables), poultry, livestock, and even fish. Without the rice crop, vegetable growing will have problems with soil-borne diseases while some feeds for poultry and fish and fertilizer for rice, like Azolla, will not thrive. Also, rice farming by-products like bran, rice hull, and straw are becoming widely used for feeds, raw materials for industries, and for energy generation.

“We just need to focus on rice R&D and the local rice production industry so as not to deprive ourselves of these by-products and other rice-based incomes which are equally valuable,” Rasco explained.

Rasco believes in diversifying, intensifying, and integrating agriculture in the rice environment as a key to achieve substantial impact in improving rural incomes and job creation. He said this will allow rice farmers to escalate their investment on rice farming, eventually increasing rice yields and reducing production cost.

He also expects the system to improve food security as the rice environment can support production of other foodstuff including vegetables, meat, and eggs. In addition, it will create new industries such as mushroom canning, vermiculture, among other opportunities.

Some farmers have recently testified that an income of a million per hectare is achievable with rice-based farming systems.

“High income is the best security against hunger and disasters,” Rasco said.

Rasco is optimistic that with suitable farming systems, rice farmers need not remain poor, earning only about P50,000 per year, way below the P80,000 poverty line. He added that millions of jobs will also be created in rice farming communities.

“If we do this, rice sufficiency will be a welcome bonus from creating farmer-millionaires. At PhilRice, we have a standing proposal leading to this, awaiting a fair share of taxpayers` money,” Rasco said.

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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