Hybrid rice hit, farmers air complaints

TABUK CITY — A farmer’s group here Wednesday criticized the government’s Food Security Program that heavily endorses the planting of hybrid rice, saying it did not consider the real situation on the ground.

HYBRID AND INBRED RICE ON THE RAMP. Rice took center stage at the Kalinga rice summit that coincided with the World Food Day rites. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga (Kalinga farmers’ forum) Secretary-general Gerry Bulaat said the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program which heavily encourages the planting and propagation of hybrid rice varieties failed to see the actual conditions of farms in the country.

Bulaat said this top-down planning strategy results from government planners favoring big business interests, instead of looking into the sorry plight of farmers, especially the small tiller-owners.

Criticizing the food security program packaged as FIELDS, Bulaat said the government keeps on promoting the production of hybrid seeds that do not easily acculturate with local conditions.

“Local farmers do not patronize hybrid seeds because it requires certain amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, a definite climate and weather conditions, enough irrigation and a planting technology that is still alien to most rice producers,” Bulaat told Nordis.

High technology farming, he said, is not applicable to farms in the countryside. He added most farmers in Kalinga do not appreciate the technology behind the cultivation of hybrids and are comfortable with the application of fertilizers and other input they are used to.

The production of seeds and other inputs is heavily left for big business to manipulate, he said. He added, although government has been spending millions on seed production, the technology heavily relies on imported commercial inputs.

Bulaat also mentioned local groups and families who control the production and sale of hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. “They take the profit from the labor of farmers,” he said.

Bulaat added, the rice productivity program is prone to graft and corruption, like any other government program. He said the fertilizer and seed subsidy intended for poor farmers did not reach most Kalinga farmers.

During the forum at the city gym here Wednesday, where some 1,500 farmers gathered for the rice information caravan and World Food Day rites, complaints on availing the fertilizer subsidy confronted Department of Agriculture (DA) officials.

National Rice Coordinator Frisco Malabanan said the government subsidizes the hybrid rice seeds at P1,500 per bag, while the inbred gets P1,200 per bag. The farmer, however, has to be in the list of farmers to be provided by the concerned local government unit.

For the fertilizer subsidy, DA handles two discount coupons worth P250 each, while the LGUs are supposed to take care of four coupons per farmer. Malabanan admitted some lapses in implementing the subsidy scheme in the local level.

A woman farmer who spoke before the forum said only those who are favored received discount coupons.

Another irrigation association officer said accredited fertilizer dealers charge P100 more on the discounted fertilizers because they still have to wait long before the government could pay them.

Kalinga is considered the rice granary of the Cordillera. It has more than 32,000 hectares of the region’s 90,000 has. irrigated rice lands. It is also a pilot province of PhilRice technology that has contributed largely to its rice production, according to government sources.

DA Cordillera Director Cesar Rodriguez said Kalinga’s rice production continue to increase citing the naturally fertile farms and the use of organic fertilizers, the continuing partnership with state universities to improve technology and the irrigations system as among the factors.

Bureau of Agricultural Statistics estimated that of the 191,000 metric tons (MT) rice produced in the region in January to June this year, Kalinga produced some 95,000 MT, or 49% of the region’s total rice production. In the same period last year the province had 87,000 MT. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)

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