November 4, 2018 ( By Maricor Zapata, The Philippine News Agency )
MANILA -- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Sunday Negros Occidental will be the first province in the country to introduce a rice production strategy that focuses on planting at most three rice varieties.
"The program for Negros Occidental to focus on just three varieties will be the first to be implemented nationwide, where farmers plant just about every known variety," Piñol posted on Facebook.
"The program, which both Gov. Alfredo Marañon and I agreed upon during my recent visit to the province will be called 'Balik Binhi,' where the provincial government will develop a 50-hectare area to produce seeds of three inbred varieties developed by PhilRice -- RC 222, RC 160, and RC 216," he explained.
The seed production program, he said, will be funded by the provincial government of Negros Occidental.
Piñol said the board of trustees of state research agency PhilRice had recently approved the program and committed technical support to the province's initiative.
Piñol said Marañon plans to distribute the seeds produced from the provincial seed farm to the farmers for free.
The recipient farmers, in turn, will be required to each "return" two bags of seeds to be distributed again to other farmers, "who will also be asked to pay back two bags of seeds each," the agriculture czar explained.
Piñol said provincial agriculturist Japhet Masculino had picked the three PhilRice varieties for propagation in the province because of their adaptability.
According to the Agriculture Secretary, the multiple-variety farming system "has proven to be a bane of the Philippine rice industry, where farm management, including the handling of diseases, has largely been a problem."
He said the multiple-variety farming system poses a problem to post-harvest operations, since farmers who own small landholdings refuse to dry their palay in mechanical dryers with huge capacity because they have different varieties.
"Milling is also a problem because different varieties have different grain sizes and formation," Piñol added.
"Lessons learned from Vietnam showed that the country focused on at least two major varieties, which were all high-yielding and early maturing," he said.
Piñol said the Negros Occidental's new rice program could serve as the blueprint for other provinces in the future.
"Gov. Marañon said this program will be started this coming planting season with the support of PhilRice," he said.