DA aims to replicate rice record
By Roderick T. Dela Cruz
The Manila Times, October 9, 2003

ENTHUSED by a new world record in rice harvest in Mindoro, the Department of Agriculture said it would try to replicate the feat in other areas of the country.

On October 1, Ernesto P. Pablo Sr. harvested an average of 292 cavans of palay (unmilled rice) per hectare in his three-hectare farm in Rizal, Occidental Mindoro.

Since each cavan is equal to 50 kilos, Pablo’s haul of Doña Maria hybrid rice variety reached 14.6 metric tons (MT), breaking the old record of 12 MT (240 cavans) set by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Nueva Ecija province.

Moreover, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture for Southern Tagalog said that one of Pablo’s three hectares yielded 298 cavans or 14.9 MT, or nearly four times the national average of 67 cavans (3.3 MT) per hectare.

Pablo, husband of incumbent Rizal Mayor Sonia C. Pablo, also bested his previous personal record of 236-cavan (11.8 MT) harvest achieved early this year.

“This signifies opportunities that can be had by Filipino farmers,” Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. said of the new record in rice production.

Lorenzo, who claimed that he personally saw Pablo’s actual harvest, said it was a piece of good news that the Filipino people should be proud about. He claimed that not even Thai or Vietnamese farmers were able to achieve such farm productivity before.

The agriculture chief also denied that the country suffered a setback in rice production since the late Marcos administration introduced Masagana 99 in the 1970s. “We have 84 million people today, compared to 48 million in 1980,” he said.

Masagana 99 is a government program that sought to push rice production to 99 cavans per hectare by applying fertilizers and pesticides. Through the program, the country was able to export rice to Vietnam, Malaysia and the United States in the 1970s. The country had a population of 36.8 million people in 1970.

Lorenzo had ordered Frisco M. Malabanan, director of the GMA rice program to accelerate the planting of hybrid rice varieties to over 300,000 hectares of regularly irrigated lands.

Malabanan claimed that once the 2.5 million Filipino rice farmers begin planting the new breeds, the country would not only become self-sufficient in rice but would be able to export its products to other countries.

The Doña Maria rice variety, otherwise knows as SL-8H, has been developed by SL Agritech Corp. Other hybrid rice varieties being endorsed commercially include 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 July, SL Agritech chair and CEO Henry Lim Bon Liong and Dennis Araullo, DA regional director for Southern Tagalog signed a memorandum of agreement for the planting of Dona Maria to 15,000 hectares in the region starting November for the next dry cropping season.

The Arroyo administration is promoting biotechnology in rice farming through the Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program (HRCP).

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