Technology pushed to hike farmers’ income
By Roderick T. de la Cruz
The Manila Times, October 30, 2003

RIGHT farming techni­ques could bolster Filipino farmers’ earnings up to P200,000 each year, higher than the average annual income of office workers, the rice program director of the Department of Agri­culture said on Thursday.

In an interview with the Business Times, Frisco M. Mala­banan, director of the GMA rice program, said that by planting hybrid seeds and applying modern farming methods, farmers can increase their palay (unmilled rice) output to over 200 50-kilo cavans (10 metric tons) each hectare for every cropping season.

At P8 for every kilo of palay, a 200-cavan harvest can give farmers a gross income of P80,000 for every cropping season, with a production cost ranging from P20,000 to P30,000 for every hectare. The average farmer in the Philippines owns 1.6 hectares, which is planted to rice twice or thrice each year.

Malabanan explained that even a farmer who plants rice on his one-hectare lot twice each year could still generate a net profit of P100,000 annually, provided that he employs the right farming techniques.

He said that farmers who own larger tracts of land, plant rice more often and sell their products directly to the market are in a better financial position.

Malabanan said he himself produced 196 cavans (9.8 MT) from a hectare planted to Mestizo variety in Nueva Ecija. He said he gained a profit of P85,000 in a single cropping season.

Earlier, Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. disclosed that a farmer in Occidental Mindoro province earned P100,000 from a one-hectare farm on a single harvest recently.

On October 1, Ernesto P. Pablo Sr. harvested 292 cavans (14.6 MT) of palay from his one-hectare farm in Rizal, Occidental Mindoro. Pablo planted Dońa Maria, a hybrid rice variety also known as SL-8H commercially produced by SL Agritech Corp.

Other hybrid rice varieties being endorsed commercially are Mestizo (PSB Rc72H), Mestizo 2 (NSIC Rc114H) and Mestizo 3 (NSIC Rc116H) of PhilRice; Bigante of Bayer CropScience Inc.; Magilas 500 of Monsanto Philippines, Inc.; and Rizalina 28 of High Rice.

In one of his speeches, Lorenzo said that a farmer produced 280 cavans of fresh palay from a one-hectare farm in Zambales province also in October, breaking the previous record.

The old rice harvest record in Central Luzon was 232 cavans of fresh palay with 15 percent moisture content, according to the DA office for Region 3.

Peasant groups, however, bewailed the high prices of hybrid rice varieties being commercially propagated by various companies.

Malabanan belied the charges, saying that farmers have to spend only P2,400 for 20 kilos of hybrid rice seeds to plant one hectare of land. He said total production cost for a one-hectare lot planted to hybrid seeds would reach only P27,341.

The amount, he noted, includes the cost of labor, fertilizers and pesticides.

“With the right variety, enough water, efficient farming techniques and proper pest and disease management, Filipino farmers will be okay,” he said.

Last year, the average national rice production was only 67 cavans (3.3 MT) per hectare.

In the 1970s, the Marcos administration launched the revolutionary Masagana 99, which sought to push rice production to 99 cavans per hectare by applying fertilizers and pesticides. That enabled the country to export rice.

Under the Arroyo administration’s Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program, the goal is to return to self-sufficiency in rice in the next few years. Malabanan said there is a possibility that the country can even export its excess harvest soon.

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