By ZAC B. SARIAN
Many people say that local rice farmers cannot compete with the Vietnamese and Thai farmers for reasons like low-yielding varieties, susceptibility to pests and diseases, high cost of pesticides and fertilizers, poor irrigation system, frequent weather aberrations like typhoons and floods, drought and other factors. It is often quoted that Vietnamese farmers can produce palay at a cost of only P5 a kilo whereas the Filipino farmer produces the same at P12.
If you ask Carlos Saplala, however, he will tell you that by planting US-88, a hybrid variety found highly adaptable to major rice producing areas, local farmers can actually become more competitive and even beat their foreign counterparts for a number of good reasons. Saplala is the president and CEO of SeedWorks Philippines that distributes US-88.
Reason No.1 – A major reason that can improve competitiveness is that US-88 is high-yielding. In fact, a high school graduate, Florencio Sudoy of Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija, harvested 13 tons from one hectare of US-88 last April, 2019. At that rate, Sudoy more than matched the production cost of the Vietnamese farmer.
Reason No.2 – US-88 produces long grains that are soft when cooked, a characteristic favored by consumers. Being long grain and with excellent eating quality, the milled rice can fetch a higher price than other varieties in the market. This could increase the income of the farmer from his harvest.
Reason No.3 – US-88 is said to be resistant to diseases like rice blast and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) which are serious diseases of many rice varieties. Florencio Sudoy who harvested his record 13 tons per hectare did not spray any pesticide to prevent or control disease because there was no need for it. Another farmer from Talavera town, Sergio Calma, did not also have to spray his US-88 crop in Brgy. San Ricardo because there was no disease to control. There was also no serious insect infestation. Because of this, the farmers can save on expensive crop protection chemicals.
Reason No.4 – US-88 is highly suitable for milling into brown rice. When this is done, more head rice is actually recovered. This will contribute to higher income for the farmer. Consuming brown rice is also beneficial to consumers.
SEEDWORKS STRATEGY – As a strategy to help farmers become more profitable and more competitive with foreign farmers, the company is promoting the massive planting of US-88 in Nueva Ecija and other provinces in the region with the launch of Hari sa Ani competition among farmers to produce the highest yield per hectare. The launch was held in Nueva Ecija last Sept. 12. The same program was also launched in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last Sept. 18 to motivate rice farmers in the South to plant US-88. Valuable prizes will be awarded to the champions in Luzon and in Mindanao, including a pickup truck.
For entry into the yield contest, a farmer must have a hectare of land planted to US-88 hybrid rice during the upcoming dry season (November 2019 to April 2020). Sowing date must be between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019.
(Log on to: zacsarian.com for valuable farm tips, ideas and interesting agri people. Email: email@example.com).