The Department of Agriculture (DA) is implementing a mechanized hybrid rice program over a total of 300 hectares in a government of China agreement as part of an original $500,000 grant that aimed to support the country's rice sufficiency.
DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said a second phase of the Philippine Sino Center for Agricultural Technology program (PHILSCAT) will implemented within the first half of this year.
It will involve planting of hybrid rice under a mechanized environment that ambitiously targets in the long term to raise the Philippines' average rice yield to as much as 10 metric tons (MT) per hectare. This is at a very cheap production cost of P5 per kilo for unmilled rice (palay).
This is supposed to triple the country's national rice average from just more than three MT per hectare at present. The target cost is also very ambitious since present support price of the National Food Authority (NFA) is P18 per kilo for good quality, dried unmilled rice.
DA is implementing PHILSCAT Phase II with the assistance of China's hybrid rice developer-hero Prof. Yuan Long Ping, the known Father of Hybrid Rice, who made a courtesy call on Alcala Monday.
The government will continue to refrain from providing any more assistance in the form of subsidy for hybrid rice seeds. Yet the collaboration is foreseen to have a big impact on the country's rice sufficiency.
"There's no question. Using hybrid rice production will be better. At present, there are still many who use ordinary seeds. We're thinking of 10-5 (10 MT per hectare yield at P5 per kilo) as a dream," said Alcala in a press briefing.
"Hybrid rice is not really crucial to rice sufficiency. We've reduced our imports to 187,000 tons without putting funds into it unlike before when all funds were for hybrid. But we've heard there are areas in China that have 14 tons yield per hectare."
Yuan said hybrid rice is now planted on 17 million hectares of land in China where yield can reach between 11 to 14 MT per hectare. China's national average yield is about double the country's national average at almost eight MT per hectare.
"We want the Philippines to become self-sufficient (in rice). The best way is through technology," said Yuan, explaining that 70 percent of China's hybrid rice areas are already mechanized.
DA Asst. Sec. Dante Delima said DA intends to come up with a cluster of 100 hectares each for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao for the PHILSCAT Phase II, for a total of 300 hectares.
"If you mechanize, it can't be just on five hectares. The area should be at least 100 hectares," Delima said. "China also wants to intervene into the choice of land areas since they're concerned about agro-climatic conditions."