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Quality seeds, machinery seen as key to agriculture competitiveness
by Ladylyn Jose - Monday, 30 April 2018, 02:50 PM
www.philstar.com; Louise Maureen Simeon; April 15, 2018

MANILA, Philippines — The use of quality rice seeds and farm machineries will help boost the competitiveness of local rice farmers in a globally challenging rice industry, Senator Cynthia Villar said.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on Agriculture and Food, called on the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to educate more farmers on the use of quality seeds to increase yield and reduce farm losses.

“Trade liberalization compels us to be more competitive as agricultural crops such as rice from other countries will easily be available in the market. To compete with other rice-producing countries such as Vietnam, we have to reduce production cost,” Villar said.

Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Philippines is expected to ease up its control on the entry of imported products by reducing the quotas and its tariff on imported rice.

Villar urged farmers to plant the right kind of variety that is appropriate for their local condition and can produce good yield.

The current national average yield in rice production is four metric tons per hectare while Nueva Ecija produces rice at 5.8 MT per hectare.

“If Nueva Ecija can, other provinces can also do it. PhilRice bred a number of varieties that exceeds the national average of production. Explore the options because it can enhance our yield,” Villar said.

The senator also encouraged the use of more machineries, such as mechanical transplanter, combine harvester and mechanical dryer, to reduce labor cost which comprises 37 percent of the total rice production cost in the country.

Compared to Vietnam, which produces rice at P6 per kilogram, the Philippines spends double that amount.

Filipino farmers also spend at least 65 days per hectare throughout the rice production process. In highly mechanized countries including Vietnam and China, farmers work for only 10 to 35 days per hectare.

A mechanical transplanter can significantly reduce labor from 20 to only two laborers in one hectare. It can also help enhance yield by five percent and prevent losses during harvesting and drying.

Combine harvester which upgraded both reaping and threshing in one passing, can reduce cost and postharvest losses from five to three percent per hectare.

The mechanical dryer, on the other hand, can reduce drying time and allow drying during unfavorable weather conditions.

Villar said government interventions such as the shared facilities program, loan services, and the free irrigation program are easily available and accessible for the farmers.

She said the agriculture committee is improving and developing government initiatives for the rice industry. These include looking for ways to reduce the interest of agricultural loans at two percent per annum, trainings on quality rice seed production on a national scale, and the establishment of farm schools across the country.

“We are trying hard to give you education because it is the only thing that cannot be taken way from you. We hope you cooperate with us,” Villar said.

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